According to new federal statistics, Napa and Sonoma have the highest traffic fatality rates of any Bay Area counties. However, due to the massive amount of tourism and the increased mileage driven (per capita) in these counties, it’s not overly surprising Napa and Sonoma landed at the top. Although these statistics don’t reveal the number of instances in which drunk driving was involved, the fact that both Napa and Sonoma have become synonymous with wine leads many to question whether alcohol may be a contributing factor.
With only about 137,000 residents, Napa County’s data is obviously going to be skewed by the millions of tourists who travel there on an annual basis. And, as one County Supervisor points out, these tourists are often unfamiliar with the roads. Still, the larger question remains, is it the roads that are unsafe, or the actual drivers?
California Highway Patrol Officer Randall Wayne suggests it might be the latter, although he does concede that “Rural roads are less forgiving if someone is distracted or makes a mistake.” Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency, there are significant efforts being made to address some of the areas where most traffic fatalities occur.
Just last month, ground was broken on the widening of Jameson Canyon Road/Highway 12, a $165 million project that will add a concrete median to the site of numerous accidents in recent years. Additionally, several repaving projects have helped decrease the number of crashes resulting from drivers running off the road due to lack of traction.
In short, Napa seems to be doing what it can, but with the sheer volume of people who drive through the county each year, this particular statistic might be a losing game. Here’s how Napa and Sonoma stack up against other Bay Area counties:
What do you think? Is this just the result of Napa and Sonoma both playing host to a large number of tourists? Could drinking and driving be partially to blame? Or are the roads in these two counties really at the root of the problem?
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/3990994169/