BPD raises awareness about the dangers of drunk and reckless driving with “A Life Interrupted” presentation


Miranda Defoor

A Life Interrupted includes a display trailer with a truck from a drunk driving accident in 2016.

Miranda Defoor, Reporter

The Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) presented “A Life Interrupted,” a multimedia presentation about drunk and reckless driving, to Bakersfield College Students. The presentation on March 15 included a trailer with a demolished truck from a Bakersfield accident, photos of car accidents, and actual 911 calls.

BPD Officer Sonja Peery, a previous traffic officer who was a part of the BPD fatal accident reconstruction team for seven years, talked students through the dangers of reckless driving and driving under the influence. Each accident she presented had different crime scene photos, audio, and a different story.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 28 people die every day from a drunk driving related crash. In 2002, in Bakersfield, 12 high school aged students were killed in reckless and drunk driving related crashes. These deaths prompted BPD Officer Don Cegielski to create “A Life Interrupted.”

After the start of the program in 2002, there was a decrease in accidents, but it didn’t last very long. In 2017, there were 45 fatal accidents, and this year there have already been nine. Peery noted that the number of accidents doesn’t indicate the number of deaths due to these fatal crashes, since many include several victims who died or were injured.

“High school students may think they don’t get affected, or they’re invincible,” Peery said. “They don’t think it will happen to them.”

The target audience for “A Life Interrupted” is high school and college students because, according to Peery, they are an influence to those around them. Although these students don’t think they are at risk for being in an accident or don’t think their deaths would affect anyone, Peery wants to remind students that their deaths will affect “100 or more people,” like their families, classmates, professors, and coworkers.

Fatal accidents have an impact. Extremely traumatic accidents affect the victim’s families, witnesses, and even first responders. One example of this was an accident in which a young girl was trapped in a burning car for up to 20 minutes. Bystanders called 911 repeatedly, each of the calls played in the presentation grew more frantic as the callers could hear the victim screaming for help from the car. 911 emergency operators tried to reassure the callers that things would be okay and help was on the way, but after alerting officers of an accident and its location, there is nothing left to do.

“Officers have an oath to protect our city,” Peery said, and even though they have to get there as safely and as quickly as possible, first responders may fear it’s their own friends or family in an accident.

Although law enforcement is trying to combat drunk and reckless driving with DUI checkpoints, accidents still happen. “Everyone has the idea that it won’t happen to them,” Peery repeated, “Be responsible for your actions.”