It takes a while, but social norms do change. Two generations ago, about 40% of adults smoked, and few people thought twice about downing “one for the road.”
Today, only about 20% of adults in the U.S., and only 14% of California adults, are smokers. And the idea of downing one more shot or beer before jumping behind the wheel isn’t accepted much of anywhere.
Most of us know, however, that things are slower to change in Shasta County. What reminded me of this was a list of “California’s Top 50 Driving Under the Influence Cities,” which the California Office of Traffic Safety produced last week. Redding ranked 26th on the list with 94 alcohol-related fatalities and injuries during 2008 – despite Redding being only the 80th largest city in the state. By comparison, Chico, which is about the same size as Redding and allegedly packed full of loaded college students, didn’t make the top 50.
Not cool, Redding, not cool.
The state agency also announced it was granting $5 million to 110 law enforcement agencies for DUI checkpoints. The emphasis will be on the Top 50 cities and on the holiday period that continues through January 2.
But forget about the statistics. It only takes one bad move to cause a tragedy. In November, Gary Smith, a 33-year Caltrans worker from Chico who was planning to retire at year’s end, was killed by a drunken driver on Highway 99. Smith was providing traffic control at the scene of an earlier drunken driving crash that had killed three people when another drunk on the highway plowed through safety barriers and struck the Caltrans worker.
So during this time of holiday parties and liquid merriment, here are a few tips from Caltrans, the CHP and the Office of Traffic Safety:
– If you’re going to be drinking, designate a sober driver who won’t be imbibing at all.
– If you see someone get behind the wheel who has no business driving, contact law enforcement immediately by dialing 9-1-1.
– If you see a CHP or Caltrans vehicle flashing warning lights, slow down and give any officers or road crews plenty of room.
And here’s my suggestion: If you’re not sure whether you should be driving, then you shouldn’t be driving. Find another way home or stay put for a while.
• Do you run a business located in Shasta, Tehama, Trinity, Siskiyou, Lassen or Plumas county? Would you like to get some of the many contracts that Caltrans lets in these counties? The Small Business Development Center in Redding can help. It will provide free Caltrans contract consulting to businesses in these counties during early and mid-January. You need to make an appointment in advance at 225-2770.
• It only took a few days for the Cascade Theatre to sell out the recently announced February 17 show by Bonnie Raitt. That’s as it should be! However, some tickets remain for Merle Haggard’s January 21 performance at the Cascade, which is a fundraiser for the Shasta College Culinary Club.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and has a stack of Bonnie Raitt CDs. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.