When a warrant granted Petaluma crash investigators entry to the Honda Civic’s onboard pc system, it lastly turned clear how the driving force of the automobile managed to ramp over a berm, crash previous a tree and concrete barrier and go away his automobile resting in a crumpled heap alongside Lichau Creek one-tenth of a mile from the preliminary collision level.
Austin Matsler-David was screaming southbound on Stony Level street, in accordance with the automobile’s pc information, hitting 101 mph earlier than slamming into Jon Bonawitz’s Ford F-150, sending that automobile tumbling off the west facet of the street and ejecting and killing Bonawitz, a 52-year-old Petaluma resident.
It was close to midnight on April 17. However the crash, later attributed to Matsler-David driving underneath the affect, was so loud, close by residents heard it and have been capable of alert police. Each officer working that evening helped with the scene. It was the positioning of Petaluma’s solely deadly wreck this yr, however it additionally marked a second when native regulation enforcement started to sense a surge of DUI crashes signaling a grim return to regular after the 2020, lockdown-induced lull.
Matsler-David survived the crash with minor accidents, and he has since pleaded responsible to gross vehicular manslaughter whereas intoxicated and DUI inflicting accidents. He faces as much as 10 years in jail, and a Sept. 22 courtroom date looms.
With DUI numbers, and crashes, ticking up, Petaluma Police are working to verify this deadly crash is a one-off case.
“Normally we discuss enforcement, training and engineering,” Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons stated throughout a brief drive to the crash web site final month. “It’s often enforcement and training. Partly what we’re attempting to do is, ‘Let’s take a look at this specific case right here.’”
Lyons and officer Garrett Sholin got here ready with a white, three-ring binder full of notes from the crash investigation and pictures of the crushed autos. Bonawitz’s truck was lacking driver’s facet rear tire, and far of its roof. The motive force’s facet was caved in dramatically.
Matsler-David’s Honda Civic was dented all through, with a damaged entrance windshield as pictures present the automobile peering out from the creek mattress that April evening.
It’s little shock DUI arrests and crashes are up from 2020, a yr that featured coronavirus-induced lockdowns that restricted site visitors on roadways to the purpose that air high quality improved worldwide.
The numbers, offered late final week by the Petaluma Police Division, present extra of a return to regular than a precipitous enhance, however they’ve however troubled site visitors enforcement officers right here, in Sonoma County’s second largest metropolis.
Via Sept. 1, Petaluma Police had arrested 105 individuals on suspicion of driving underneath the affect, whereas investigating 39 DUI-related crashes, in accordance with metropolis information.
Each outpace 2020 numbers, when police arrested 95 individuals and investigated 40 crashes. However the numbers are as soon as once more reaching pre-pandemic tempo, when 212 individuals have been arrested for DUI and crash investigators labored 85 DUI-related wrecks.
The numbers, no less than for DUI arrests, could possibly be worse, however the Petaluma Police Division has suspended its checkpoint program through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless of that, the sensation, no less than amongst some site visitors cops, is that issues are getting worse.
“Constantly, it’s been one-to-two DUIs per evening,” Sholin stated.
Sholin, who has labored for the Petaluma Police Division for the previous 4 years, stated the individuals he has pulled over have various reactions. Some, he stated, notice they bought caught.
“Some individuals actually suppose they’ll make it house,” he stated. “Actually, don’t even take the possibility. Take an Uber or a taxi – something that doesn’t put you behind the wheel of a automobile, since you by no means know what can occur. For those who try this, you might find yourself in jail or any individual might find yourself severely injured or useless.”
Tyler Silvy is editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Attain him at email@example.com, 707-776-8458, or @tylersilvy on Twitter.