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Traffic deaths down on California roads

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Posted: Monday, December 7, 2009 12:00 am

Want to know how California is doing on traffic safety and crashes? Here are some quick facts released by the California Office of Traffic Safety:

In 2008, California's traffic fatalities decreased 14.1 percent, reaching their lowest level since the federal government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975.

Alcohol impaired driving fatalities decreased 9.1 percent, from 1,132 in 2007 to 1,029 in 2008. Since 2005, alcohol impaired fatalities have dropped a staggering 20.1 percent.

In 2008, 30 percent of all traffic fatalities were alcohol impaired driving fatalities. California is better than the national average of 32 percent.

Statewide DUI arrests increased from 203,866 in 2007 to 214,811 in 2008.

Surveys in 2009 show 95.3 percent of the people in California use seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates that 1,424 Californian lives were saved at the current seat belt use rate.

Drivers age 19 or younger involved in fatal crashes dropped from 345 in 2007 to 290 in 2008. Males make up 77 percent of teen driver fatalities.

In 2008, the percent of unrestrained passenger "teenaged" fatalities was 37 percent. Since restraints are about 50 percent effective in preventing a fatality, NHTSA estimates that 42 dead California teens would be alive today had they simply buckled up.

Motorcycle fatalities continued to spiral upward from 518 in 2007 to 560 in 2008. Motorcycle fatalities have increased 10 consecutive years and are at their highest level since 1990.

Of the 560 motorcyclists killed 12 percent, or 68, were un-helmeted. Since helmets are about 39 percent effective in preventing fatalities, NHTSA estimates that 26 of the 68 un-helmeted motorcyclists killed would have survived had they worn a helmet.

In 2008, 70 percent of motorcycle operators killed were at fault and 37 percent of motorcycle operators killed were not properly licensed.

Pedestrian fatalities dropped 5 percent from 650 in 2007 to 620 in 2008 while bicycle fatalities remained unchanged at 109 in 2008.

Good news on California traffic safety laws: In a report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in April 2009, California was given the highest rating in the nation for laws pertaining to DUI, young driver licensing, seat belt use, child restraint use, motorcycle helmet use and red light cameras.

Any comments or questions for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at or mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or questions may be asked by phone at 333-6864.

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