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Record After Decline in '86 : 118 Killed in Traffic Accidents Last Year

January 16, 1988|CURTIS L. TAYLOR | Times Staff Writer

After a drop in 1986, the number of people killed in traffic accidents last year reached a record high of 118, according to figures released by the San Diego Police Department.

The number of people killed in accidents rose from 95 in 1986 to 118 in 1987--a 24% increase, said Sgt. Garry Gollehon of the traffic investigation unit. The number of fatal crashes increased from 92 in 1986 to 112 in 1987--nearly a 22% increase, he said.

Gollehon said the dramatic increase may have been because 1986 was a "unique" year, during which drivers appeared to be more cautious and the number of fatalities dropped because of "new, stricter laws on drunk driving."

Last year, there was an increasing number of motorists, he said.

"San Diego's increasing population has put more motorists on the road," Gollehon said. "Also, more and more teen-agers are now eligible to drive, which adds to the numbers of cars."

Since more people are on the road, Gollehon said, driving conditions have become more stressful. As a result, motorists "must allow more time to get to places," he said.

"People have to realize that they have to give themselves more time to get from point A to point B," he said. "When they get on the freeways, they see more cars on the road and begin to rush to make up for the lost time, which causes accidents."

Except for 1986, the number of traffic fatalities has risen steadily over the past five years, Gollehon said.

In 1982 there were 83 traffic fatalities; in 1983, there were 98; in 1984, 106; and in 1985, 117.

"About half of car accidents are alcohol-related," Gollehon said. "If people would use a designated driver system rather than drink and drive, a great deal of the accidents would be reduced."

Gollehon also blamed the rising traffic death rate on the number of people who refuse to use their seat belts.

"In 70% of the accidents last year, seat belts were not worn. It's obvious that some of these people would probably be alive today if they had worn their seat beats," he said.

Gollehon also cited a rise in pedestrian-car accidents and deaths. Last year 39 people were killed while crossing the streets--an increase of 33% from 1986.

"Pedestrians have this misconception that every time they step off the curb, the car will stop," he said. "They have to give the car time to stop. Right or wrong, I have never seen a pedestrian win" in a contest with an automobile.

Seventeen of the 22 people who were killed in motorcycle accidents in 1987 didn't wear helmets, he said.

"I am not saying that they need to wear helmets, but perhaps if they did they would be here rather than a statistic," he said.

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