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High Local Fatality Rate Concerns CHP

Some shocking statistics coming from the local California Highway Patrol.

Traffic fatalities on Mother Lode roads have already surpassed the total number of people killed during all of 2002. CHP officials say last year a total of 21 persons died in traffic accidents here. So far this year, as of mid-July, 24 people have died on Mother Lode roads in 15 fatal accidents.

Local CHP officials are concerned.

“These are very deadly times in Tuolumne County,” said Jamestown CHP Officer Tom Wills. He figures the area has been averaging about one traffic death per week.

“We think this is due to agressive driving,” he said. “People are just driving too fast, too hard, not taking their time.” He says drugs or alcohol are also involved as a factor in these latest killer car crashes.

“When things do happen, they´re not wearing a seat belt, so it escalates. They get ejected from the vehicle and the vehicle ends up rolling over on them,” he added.

Nobody at the Jamestown CHP office can remember a year with this magnitude of traffic deaths, Wills said.

The mounting death tally this year is taking it´s toll on the officers working the crashes.

“It´s playing on our guys. They´re out there with the bodies and picking things up,” Wills said. “It´s a stress on the officers as well as the families. We´re feeling for the families, too.”

These fatalities are involving many local residents. “And we´ve known a lot of them personally as well,” he said. “We don´t like to see our friends die like that.”

Wills explained federal grant money is being used to pay officer overtime for extra traffic enforcement. All summer, the CHP has been on the look-out for DUI drivers. Extra officers are also patroling for motorists not wearing their seat belts.

Wills hopes that when people see the black and white patrol cars it will trigger something in their head and “they will take some care on the road.”