There's nothing more American than Fourth of July weekend. It brings together so many traditions; the barbeque, the fireworks, the road trip, the local parade, movies about aliens. And as we raid the supermarkets and ready the marinades, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and other law enforcement agencies are practicing their own traditions, preparing to ensure the festivities remain safe.
For the CHP, the three-day Fourth of July weekend is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP), when all available officers will be on patrol. It is also and Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) holiday, when highway patrols nationwide work together with special emphasis on protecting drivers on interstate routes. Interstates 80, 40, 15, and 5 fall under this program.
During last year's Fourth of July weekend, 41 people were killed on California roadways. The CHP reminds people to remain within the speed limits and practice appropriate safety measures. Almost half the deaths in CHP jurisdiction last year involved motorists or passengers not wearing seatbelts and one motorcyclist had been riding without a helmet.
"Many of these deaths could have been easily avoided by taking a moment to buckle a seat belt," stated Commissioner Farrow, "Proper safety equipment takes a moment to secure and can make all the difference between walking away from a crash, or being carried away on a stretcher."
In addition to speeders and those ignoring safety precautions, the other main danger when traveling over the weekend is drivers under the influence. During last year's Fourth of July MEP, the CHP made 1,684 DUI arrests.
"If you're going to drink, do not drive," urged Commissioner Farrow, "and equally important, don't get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking. Plan ahead and designate a non-drinking driver."