Sacramento is a wonderful community with terrible drivers.
Awful. Miserable. Distracted. Impaired. Reckless. Deadly.
You wish this were not so, but it is. It's an epidemic worthy of communitywide attention and action.
One of the area's worst driving stories in recent years emerged Tuesday, when we learned that a young man lost his leg, his girlfriend suffered serious injuries and their four dogs were killed when a car tore into them Monday night in Carmichael.
It happened at roughly 10 p.m. at the corner of Garfield Avenue and Engle Road, when someone driving a 1986 or 1987 Nissan Maxima or Stanza, light metallic brown in color, didn't even bother to slow down as he plowed into Harison Long-Randall, 21, of Grass Valley and Gemily West, 23, of Carmichael as they walked her dogs home. The driver fled the scene.
If you saw anything related to this crash, please call the California Highway Patrol at (916) 338-6710 during business hours or (916) 861-1300 after hours.
This is not an isolated accident.
Carmichael and the city of Sacramento are two distinct communities, but are linked by roads and freeways that daily commuters traverse from suburban homes to urban jobs. It's all the same community and there is a common problem.
For five consecutive years, Sacramento has ranked first among California's 13 largest cities with the worst overall injury crash rating.
In April of this year, my colleague Tony Bizjak wrote: "There were 3,468 injuries and deaths (mainly injuries) in crashes in the city in 2010."
The only "good news" is that these numbers are down 23 percent from 2006.
But Sacramento remains the worst for reasons no one can explain. In 2009, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel told me that our community has a problem it won't confront.
"Why do we have so many drunk drivers?" Braziel said back then. "We've ranked right up there for a long time we just didn't want to talk about it."
Braziel said Sacramento had only 22 traffic officers on motorcycles in 2009, compared to Fresno's 71. After years of budget cuts, how many full-time motorcycle cops does Sacramento have now to focus strictly on traffic?
"We have none," Braziel said.
That's right. None. The city with the most dangerous roads can't afford to staff motorcycle cops dedicated solely to the roads. Traffic cops are now in patrol cars on most days, fielding a variety of calls, and get back on their bikes maybe once a week, Braziel said.
Let that sink in for a moment. I was nearly hit by distracted drivers on two different occasions while jogging in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday. I returned to the horrible news in Carmichael and wondered if I could be next.
Maybe you could be next.