BARSTOW The number of lives lost in fatal highway crashes in 2010 locally rose slightly from the 2009 toll, while drunken-driving arrests decreased 10 percent.

Forty-two people lost their lives in 39 fatal crashes on highways within the California Highway Patrol's Barstow-area territory in 2010, compared to 36 deaths in 2009 an increase of 14 percent.

The CHP's Barstow station covers a wide area, from the desert expanse between Barstow and Victorville to the Nevada state line.

CHP spokesman Officer Paul Ellis said excessive speed as a direct or contributing factor is the biggest cause of fatal highway crashes.

"If someone falls asleep or has a tire blow out at 90 or 100 mph they are much less likely to survive than someone who is traveling the speed limit," said Ellis. "The person driving slower has more time to react and keep their car on the road."

Drunken-driving arrests were down 10 percent for the year, with 551 arrests in 2010 and 607 in 2009. Fifteen of the 551 arrests in 2010 involved a traffic crash.

Ellis said the CHP's drunken-driving patrol efforts for 2010 were similar to 2009, with the exception of the discontinuation of DUI checkpoints midway through the year due to a lack of funding. Ellis said he expects funding for the checkpoints to be restored soon.

For the 2009 traffic count year which ended on Sept. 30, 2010 an estimated daily average of 90,000 cars per day passed through Barstow on Interstate 15, according to Caltrans statistics. The same average number of cars per day passed through during the 2008 count year.

Ellis said in his observation gasoline prices have the largest impact on traffic crash numbers causing motorists to drive slower and less often.

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