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Are vehicle-related fatalities spiking or dropping in California?

Readers pondering the above-posed headline question might reasonably believe that a simple and straightforward answer is available that readily responds to it.

Reasonable expectations notwithstanding, the evidence that has recently emerged regarding roadway deaths in California doesn't easily allow for an unqualified and confident response to the inquiry.

Here's why. Although California officials display no equivocation when they state that traffic fatalities have been on the rise over a recent measuring period, they also point to a preceding period during which road deaths were appreciably lower. And there seems to be no data that firmly indicate what the future might portend.

A recent media report on California motor vehicle crashes and fatalities chronicles the complexity that marks state accident patterns. It refers to a "remarkable five-year stretch [between 2006 and 2010] in California road history" during which motor vehicle-related fatalities dropped by a staggering 36 percent.

Such wonderfully positive news didn't hold, though, with the above-cited fatality spike since that period being material and troubling: Reportedly, a 13-percent rise in road deaths occurred between 2010 and 2013, and state officials expect that upward trend in fatality numbers to be confirmed for 2014 when relevant statistics are duly evaluated.

They can't be sure yet, though, and final 2015 numbers are many months away from being finalized.

What is clear, though, is the notable spike over time following an impressive period of comparatively low-incident fatality reporting.

The factors influencing that are, unsurprisingly, several, ranging from findings showing more drivers being fixated on behind-the-wheel distractions to reports of increased drugged driving.

What is eminently clear is that state roadways bring constant challenges for motorists, and that drivers need to clear-headed and constantly focused when they're behind the wheel.

When they're not, adverse outcomes can obviously occur.

In California, they frequently do. Duly noting that from time to time can serve as a compelling reminder to buckle up and drive safely.

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