SB-936 CalTrans Consideration of Fatalities


SB-936 will develop a CEQA exemption for road safety improvements for the top 15 locations on the state highway system with the highest rate of vehicle collisions according to data collected by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). 


In California, thousands of people lose their lives or suffer life-changing injuries annually in automobile accidents. In 2023, pedestrian deaths increased to their highest level in 41 years in California. The disparities in traffic safety are an urgent issue across the state. From rural areas to urban cities, California streets are getting more dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. A 2022 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found disparities in the risk of travel for low-income communities and communities of color. Additionally, the study revealed Native Americans were found to be 5 times more likely to die while walking in their neighborhood and close to 3 times as likely to die in a passenger vehicles, while Black Americans are 2 times as likely to die per mile in their neighborhood. 

Car accidents are consistently a top cause of unintentional injury or death for Californians. California traffic fatalities surged 22% from 2019 to 2022, while severe and fatal traffic crashes have resulted in $166 billion in economic and quality-of-life costs for Californians in 2022 alone. Recently, a devastating crash involving a drunk driver speeding at 104 mph in a 45 mph zone, claimed the lives of four Pepperdine University students on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also infamously known as “Dead Man’s Curve.” In response, the Malibu City Council unanimously voted to consider a motion to declare a state of emergency to free up resources within its jurisdiction to make PCH safer. Consequently, citizens and legislators alike have pushed Caltrans to make changes throughout the state, and almost 4,000 counted collisions and ten years later along PCH, little to no change has been made. 

As seen with the most recent PCH fatalities, it should not take a state of emergency to activate Caltrans resources for road improvements when money and data are readily available for roads that are prone to fatalities. Caltrans and regional transportation agencies receive federal and state funds to build, maintain, and develop highways and road improvements. Still, as Caltrans has claimed to prioritize safety, non-decisive action has led to vehicle deaths steadily climbing with the return of commuters to work after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Scattered safety improvements across the state are only a temporary fix, ultimately increasing the burden and expense on road improvements, maintenance, and development in the long run. This delayed response results in a strain on state resources, the budget, and tax-payers pocketbooks across the scale. 


SB-936 establishes a CEQA exemption for road safety improvements on the state highway system based on the highest rate of vehicle collisions according to data collected by Caltrans.  

Click HERE to read the bill language