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Legal Driving Usually Safe, Says Crittenden

American Government Topics:  Bradford M. Crittenden

Legal Driving Usually Safe, Says Crittenden

Lodi News-Sentinel
December 13, 1962

"Drive legally and you will be driving safely."

This piece of cogent advice was given yesterday to members of the Lodi Lions in an address by Bradford M. Crittenden, commissioner of the state highway patrol.

Crittenden, former San Joaquin district attorney who assumed his highway post in 1959, conceded that it is virtually useless to preach safety to the average driver. Most of them have been hearing about safe driving for years. The admonition has become so common that drivers rarely think about it.

The attitude of the highway user is that he is a safe driver, and that if accidents occur, they will be to somebody else. An attitude that, unfortunately, the toll of fatal and injury accidents tends to disprove.

The lawful driver is a safe driver, Crittenden stressed, and it is better to live legally and drive legally. Not that this is a certain preventative of accidents. The attitude that accidents always happen to the other fellow is illusionary. The law-abiding motorist, the careful and non-drinking driver is apt to become involved in an accident at any time. Accidents cannot be blamed entirely on a possible 10 per cent of "bad drivers."

Yet the legal driver, he continued, has a better chance of survival than the reckless law violator in most instances.

Driving a car is part of the way of life in California, a vast expanse of territory, Crittenden said, with its eight million motorists, a number he estimated would reach 18 million by 1980. The vehicle owner considers his car as a "second pair of legs," and governs its use accordingly.

Vehicles in the Los Angeles area alone, he stated, outnumber those of 43 other states.

Crittenden praised the state highway system as one of the best in the United States. Freeways, he said, have drawn a great deal of criticism, yet the fact remains that freeways have been invaluable in helping take care of the immense traffic.

In Los Angeles County, he went on, the freeways have moved great quantities of traffic, and in his opinion, much more effectively than any other rapid transit system, and faster.

So greatly are we dependent on vehicle traffic, that a week's stoppage of it, particularly commercial vehicles, would bring grave hardship to San Joaquin County or any other section of the state.

Citing a few statistics, Crittenden said that the first state car license was issued in 1905, first vehicle registration began in 1913, and the highway patrol was formed in 1929. Ever since, the volume of traffic has grown phenomenally.

Speed problems may have become exaggerated, he said, yet he cautioned that speed can be a "killer," and told of tests taken on freeways in the San Diego area that revealed many cars being driven beyond 100 miles an hour, risking life and limb.

The prosecution image has changed in recent years, Crittenden said. A couple of decades ago a person charged with "drunk driving" was apt to lose his job, in addition to other penalties.

There has been an alteration in the thinking about drinking, Crittenden said. It now is looked upon as an acceptable social custom. Yet consumption of one or two ounces of alcohol can remove a man from the carefulness necessary in driving. Medical tests showing the percentage of alcohol in the blood cannot always be relied upon or made to stand up in court. Motion pictures of the offender can be more effective.

Figures indicate that drinking is indeed an acceptable social custom in this state. In 1961 California consumed 28 million gallons of distilled spirits, 32 million gallons of wine and 232 million gallons of beer.

Crittenden voiced the opinion that beer might be the most dangerous of the three, since beer drinkers charged with "drunk driving" invariably insist that they "only had a couple of beers."

Crittenden pointed out that one problem the highway patrol has been vainly trying to solve is the large number of single car accidents, which have reached a staggering total of 42 per cent, and in some sections even higher.

Some steps leading to a solution have borne fruit. About six per cent of the fatalities occurred in cars whose equipment wouldn't pass inspection, and another eight per cent were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. But this does not answer the question of what happened to the remainder of the 42 per cent killed, or the 37 per cent meeting with injury.

Crittenden said that the death rate has been cut 5.2 per cent in this state, and is dropping slightly each year. Yet this does not console the families of the 3500 of 4000 annually who lose their lives in accidents.

This matter of improving highway safety is not just a problem of the police or highway patrol. It is the problem of every man or woman who drives a vehicle, Crittenden concluded, and legal driving is a measure that every driver should observe. It will help.

Kerby Anderson, program chairman, introduced Crittenden, and Inspector Jim Price of the highway patrol. President Bob Hunnell was in charge.

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