In Lake County, there appears to have been a slight increase both in fatal collisions and the resulting fatalities.
CHP said increased enforcement, along with education, resulted in lives saved statewide.
Highway collision fatalities decreased 9.22 percent in 2006, with 3,907 collision fatalities compared to 4,304 in 2005. Statewide, there were 3,542 fatal collision in 2006, down from 3,822 in 2005.
Jaime Coffee of the Sacramento CHP Office reported that fatal collisions in Lake County in 2005 numbered 12, with 13 victims killed. Statistics for 2006, which she said were preliminary and only extended through September, listed 16 fatal collisions and 20 victims killed.
The county's fatality statistics over the last 10 years show a steady overall increase, with some years showing notable drops. (See graph below.)
“While I am saddened to see these deaths, I am pleased to see what appears to be a substantial reduction in the number of casualties,” said CHP Commissioner Mike Brown. “The projected reduction reflects the emphasis the CHP places on safety.”
CHP said its goals include preventing death, injury and property damage. The indicator of a state’s relative success in traffic safety is represented by the number of traffic fatalities per every 100 million miles of vehicle travel, referred to as the Mileage Death Rate (MDR). The MDR is affected by both increased educational and enforcement efforts.
“Early indications are that California’s estimated mileage death rate in 2006 is 1.21, that’s a dramatic improvement from the previous year’s 1.31 if that holds up,” said Brown.
The MDR won’t be official until the third quarter of 2007 when all data elements are finalized.
“These projected reductions in collisions and victims killed are primarily the result of increased enforcement and education in the three main causes of fatal crashes – seat belt usage, DUIs and speeding,” Brown added.
The preliminary figures were also good news at the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
OTS awards grants to agencies throughout the state for programs aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on California's roadways.
In the last year OTS awarded $103 million to 290 agencies, more funding to more agencies than ever before, with greater emphasis on combating DUI offenders, increasing seat belt use and promoting public awareness campaigns.
DUI arrests statewide rose 4 percent between 2005 and 2006, going from 89,944 to 93.690. In Lake County, 2005 DUI arrests numbered 360, compared to a preliminary estimate of 411 for 2006 (for 10 years of Lake County DUI statistics, see graph below).
The Lake County District Attorney's Office received an OTS grant last year, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins. The funds, said Hopkins, were used to create a new DUI Vertical Prosecution Unit and fund a prosecutor whose sole function is to work DUI cases. The unit won its first prosecution in February.
E-mail Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org.