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Drunk-Driving Arrests, Traffic Deaths Decrease

Times Staff Writer

Arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on San Fernando Valley streets decreased in 1988 compared to 1987, as did deaths in traffic accidents, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

There were 5,169 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 1988, 612 fewer than the year before, a 10.6% decrease.

There were 124 people killed in Valley traffic accidents, 10 fewer than in 1987, a 7.5% decrease, police said.

Major injury accidents--in which people “couldn’t walk away” and were taken to hospitals--fell by 7%, from 855 in 1987 to 795 last year, Police Sgt. Dennis Zine said.

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Police attributed the decline in deaths and serious injuries to more people wearing seat belts.

The Valley had 16,763 reported traffic accidents in 1988, a 1.5% decrease from the 17,011 accidents in 1987. Reported accidents are those that police investigate because deaths, injuries, hit-and-run drivers, drunk driving or other crimes are involved.

But Capt. Bruce Mitchell said that for every reported accident, four are unreported, generally minor collisions in which only the vehicles are damaged.

Of the Valley’s reported accidents, 48% involved hit-and-run drivers--about the same percentage as in 1987, police said.

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For the city as a whole, hit-and-run accidents made up 45.7% of the 59,579 reported accidents, Officer Paul Shumway said. The citywide rate for 1988 had not been calculated by Friday, police said.

Anthony Bartolotto, detective supervisor of the Valley Traffic Division, said some people flee after an accident, thinking that they will be arrested. But he noted: “It’s not a crime to be involved in an accident. It’s a crime to leave the scene of an accident.”

Other drivers run from the scene because they have “no license, no insurance, are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or are wanted for other crimes,” he said.

Mitchell said some motorists simply panic.

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“When they calm down, it’s already a crime because they left the scene,” he said. “A person who’s not normally a criminal becomes a criminal.”

Officers issued 98,000 traffic citations to drivers in the Valley in 1988, a 16.1% drop from the 116,831 given in 1987.


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