Six people were killed in drunk-driving incidents in Calaveras County in 2019, according to a San Andreas area California Highway Patrol (CHP) report.
The San Andreas CHP, which patrols Calaveras and Alpine counties to the top of Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4, recorded 647 total traffic collisions in 2019, 10 of which were fatal, with 11 total victims. That was down from 14 fatal collisions in 2018, and 21 in 2017.
The age spectrum of those killed in car crashes in 2019 ranged from 28 to 75. Additionally, 76 incidents in 2019 resulted in major injuries.
“The 10 fatal traffic collisions are not just a number or statistic,” reads a CHP Facebook post from Jan. 10. “Those were 11 loved ones, moms or dads, brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles, friends and coworkers.”
Half of those collisions were the result of drunk driving, according to officials.
“Had those five drivers not driven intoxicated, six people would still be alive today,” said CHP Officer Toby Butzler.
Butzler said people should have a plan before they start drinking, whether it’s using a rideshare application (Uber, Lyft, etc.) or finding a designated driver.
Unforgiving roads across the county present added concern. Strips of road with gravel shoulders are a common site of incidents, where drivers sometimes brake too hard, overcommit on turns and end up flipping over, Butzler said.
For some families, the impacts of one person getting behind the wheel while intoxicated last a lifetime. In 2018, Valley Springs resident Dana Lund lost her 27-year-old daughter, Chelsea, two days before Christmas due to a head-on collision with a drunk driver.
Chelsea’s then-8-year-old son, Kaiden, who Lund now cares for, suffered serious injuries in the crash.
“I feel so blessed that he’s still here with us,” Lund said. “He’s been through a lot. He’s going to carry these physical scars for the rest of his life, and he’s going to be without his mother. They were very close. There’s no replacing his mom.”
Wallace resident Donald Jackson, 26, the intoxicated driver in the collision, has pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence, driving under the influence of alcohol, causing injury and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. After delays over legal mishaps earlier this month, a sentencing hearing for Jackson was delayed until Jan. 31.
“That should be a difficult time for us because we have to face the man that killed our daughter and left our grandson an orphan,” Lund said, adding that her family is worried that Jackson won’t receive a strict enough sentence. “We don’t have confidence in the system that they’re going to punish him … He broke a list of laws that he should have to serve time for. Just because we can’t prove that he was racing, we know he was. The frustration is enormous. We shouldn’t have to be going in there wondering if he’s going to prison. He killed someone.”
Lund said the family will feel Chelsea’s loss for the rest of their lives.
“Nobody ever believes it’s going to be them,” Lund said, choking back tears. “We’ve been really blessed with three incredible children. Chelsea was extremely generous with her time, she loved animals and if anybody was in need, she was always right there for them. It’s just not fair. This is my life for the rest of my life. It is a relentless pain all the time every minute of every day.”