Rush-Hour Accidents and Traffic Stops

The California Highway Patrol’s stated primary purpose is “assuring the safe, convenient and efficient transportation of people and goods on our highway system.” I write to challenge whether the CHP’s observation of traffic during rush-hour on California Highway 101 in our area is aligned with its stated purposes.

During rush-hour in Santa Barbara and Montecito, CHP officers can frequently be seen inside their vehicles along the sides of the 101 observing drivers. In particular, officers are often seen observing from the side of the Olive Mill Road southbound 101 onramp and pulling drivers over just south thereof.

These convenient observation points seem to be being used by the CHP primarily for detecting minor traffic infractions, such as the new do-not-hold-and-operate-your-cell-phone law, and not for more appropriate uses such as detecting more major traffic infractions and responding to accidents and emergencies.

The CHP’s enforcement of minor traffic infractions during rush-hour is counterproductive to its primary purpose. The pursuits and subsequent traffic stops cause additional traffic congestion and decrease safety as rear-end accidents occur adjacent to and during the time of these traffic stops — presumably caused by drivers taking their eyes off the road to gander at the scene during stop-and-go traffic.

For these reasons, the CHP needs to rethink its priorities with respect to traffic observation during rush-hour on congested highways such as the 101 looking at the bigger picture pertaining to the its primary purpose: “assuring the safe, convenient and efficient transportation of people and goods on our highway system.”

A Reply from Santa Barbara CHP

Here are a few reasons and statistics why California Highway Patrol will continue to have our officers patrol freeways at all times of the day:

Safety on California’s roadways is the CHP’s primary focus. In 2016, CHP made 59,584 arrests for driving under the influence (DUI). We are always looking for unsafe drivers, especially those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Many people hold their cell phone to talk while driving and they also use text features, both of which are prohibited under Vehicle Code (VC) §23123. Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device, but drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited (VC §23124). Cell phones are one of the leading identifiable contributing factors to distracted driver collisions in California. According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, in 2015, more than 650 drivers were involved in fatal and injury collisions in which a contributing factor was at least one driver being inattentive due to cell phone use.

Texting and driving just don’t mix. It is illegal for anyone to compose, send, or read a text while driving on a public roadway. Motorists need to devote 100 percent of their attention to the task at hand — safely operating their vehicle on the roadway.

On average, a vehicle is stolen every three minutes in California. By officers remaining vigilant, they increase the odds recovering stolen vehicles. California vehicle thefts increased by 3.4 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. Last year, 186,857 vehicles were stolen in California with an estimated value of over $1 billion. Of that number, 90.2 percent were successfully recovered, or 168,608 recovered vehicles.

Officers looking for seat-belt violations is key while stationed at certain locations. It only takes two seconds to buckle up. And those two seconds could literally save your life. They also keep you from getting a ticket and a fine. Since the Click It or Ticket campaign began in California in 2005, the state’s seat-belt use rate has increased from 92.5 percent in 2005 to a high of 96.5 percent in 2016, representing over 1.5 million more vehicle occupants who have started buckling up. Even at that high percentage, more than 1 million Californians are still not protecting themselves with seat belts, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety.

The aforementioned reasons and many more not mentioned are services we do to protect and serve the great people of California.

—Officer Jon Gutierrez, Public Information Officer, Santa Barbara CHP


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