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Police officers may be paid to protect and serve the public by enforcing the law, but that doesn't mean that they're immune to it. Law enforcement officers are just as capable of making the same mistakes that civilians do, especially when they're not in uniform. A former officer with the police department in Newport Beach, California, knows this all too well, having been sentenced in court last week.

The 51-year-old Winchester woman, who no longer works in law enforcement but has been working as a private investigator, was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with a fatal car accident that happened in November 2011. She was sentenced to nine years in state prison.

According to California Highway Patrol officers who investigated the crash, the woman was driving fast behind another car on Interstate 15 just before 2 a.m. one night when she rear-ended it. The impact forced both cars off the road, through a guardrail and hundreds of feet down a steep hill. The other driver, a 20-year-old man, was killed in the accident and his two passengers were seriously injured. The woman who caused the crash also suffered injuries.

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A young Milpitas, California, man accused of taking the life of another motorist pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter last week, essentially accepting responsibility for his role in the accident. Although he didn't express remorse or go into the details of the accident, he did admit to inflicting fatal injuries on the victim. This admission could affect the outcome of any civil court proceedings brought by the victim's family.

The accident happened the morning of Aug. 3 on a road with a speed limit of 35 mph. Milpitas police reported that the 24-year-old man who caused the crash was traveling at least 49 mph in his Volvo SUV. He was apparently on his way home from San Jose after a night of drinking and partying. But according to authorities, he hadn't sobered up by the time he collided head-on with another vehicle.

The crash sent both vehicles off the road and into an adjacent park. The car struck a tree after colliding with the SUV, causing massive injuries to the 65-year-old driver. He was rushed to a San Jose hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the SUV, who didn't suffer any serious injuries, took a blood alcohol test that registered at .233 percent, nearly three times over the legal driving limit. Another breath test later that day registered at .229.

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The bad fortune of being stranded on a freeway in Northern California as the result of getting a flat tire was transformed into something far worse last week. Three family members traveling together were killed by an elderly motorist said to be traveling at a high speed. The fatal accident took the lives of a 48-year-old mother, her 21-year-old daughter, and her 28-year-old son. The father, the fourth family member in the car, survived.

California Highway Patrol officers have announced intentions to lodge criminal charges against an 82-year-old male driver who they said slammed into the family's out of commission Lexus with his speeding Volkswagen SUV. The crash took place on the shoulder of Interstate 280, where the family had pulled their vehicle over after suffering a flat tire.

The family was en route to an airport to fly out of town to visit relatives for the holidays. Three of the family members' lives could not be saved, despite the best efforts of medical personnel. The male driver who struck their vehicle himself suffered injuries serious enough to require surgery, but medical personnel characterized the injuries as non-life-threatening.

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A 51-year-old female motorist is accused of having been intoxicated when she hit and killed a male pedestrian. Police said that she was working as a manager at a facility that promotes sober living for its residents, many of whom have struggled with alcohol addiction.

The accident occurred in Southern California at approximately 11:25 p.m. one night last month as the pedestrian was crossing the street while on his way home from a social evening with friends. He was still alive and lying on top of her car when it eventually stopped. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but soon died.

Law enforcement officers who placed the driver under arrest stated in their official report that her blood-alcohol level had reached twice the allowable legal limit before the accident.

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Many drivers begrudge the large semitrailers and box trucks they see on California's roadways. They don't like sharing the road with these vehicles because they tend to be slower and louder than cars and can restrict visibility. They also stand the chance of doing much more damage in the event of an accident, both because of their sheer force and their inability to slow down as quickly.

A truck accident is being blamed for a subsequent head-on collision in Madera County this week that killed three people. According to California Highway Patrol troopers, a semitrailer was traveling on Highway 152 and was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Road 16. Visibility was low at the time due to heavy fog. As the driver began making the turn, another tractor-trailer clipped the back of the turning truck, causing it to overturn. That sent the truck's load of hay bales spilling all over the road.

Just then, yet another large truck approached and tried to serve around the hay bales to avoid an accident. But because these vehicles are so big that they're difficult to maneuver, the third truck crossed into the opposing lanes of traffic and struck a car head-on. The three people in the car, all of them San Jose residents, were killed in the collision. It's not clear whether the first two truck drivers were hurt, but the driver of the third truck suffered moderate injuries.

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John J. Garvey, III
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