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Wednesday, Nov 28 2012 11:00 PM

Eyes right here: Distracted driving kills on Kern roads

By The Bakersfield Californian

A report on the cause of local traffic fatalities has revealed trends consistent with the findings of virtually every nationwide study: If you die at the scene of a car accident in Kern County, there's a good chance alcohol, speeding or texting was involved.

Three doctors at Kern Medical Center looked at 523 local traffic deaths since 2009 where the deaths were immediate. In more than half the deaths, according to police data, the driver's blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit. In 45 percent, excessive speed or texting were evident. Only 15 of the deaths were attributed to bad weather. And 20 percent of the people in all cases studied were not wearing a seat belt.

The study is one of the first that provides a very local picture of the cause of immediate traffic fatalities. While we've long been warned of the dangers of drunken driving, texting and speeding, these numbers are sobering. A huge number of preventable deaths still take place on our roads each year.

The study should prompt more local efforts to deter unsafe driving behaviors. The authors have suggested prevention efforts aimed at high schools, but we also hope to see campaigns targeting the general public. Generic messages about driving safely are one thing. But true, hard statistics from your own streets are quite another. They carry a powerful message that must get out.

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