Besides being on the lookout for drunken drivers during the holiday season, California Highway Patrol officers also are keeping their eyes open for another nuisance--large quantities of trash left on the county's roadways.
Officials of both the CHP and the California Department of Transportation say it isn't just paper wrappers that have piled up on highways this month. Officers and road workers have found Jacuzzis, stoves, cement mixers, kitchen sinks, dressers, ladders and trash cans along the roads.
This month has been one of the worst ever for Caltrans maintenance workers. Spokesman Jim Larson said the department's cleanup crews have been called out more than 70 times since Dec. 1 by CHP officers and citizens to remove large items from the highways.
In a press release, Caltrans district director Bill Dotson called the problem "pathetic." Officials said the situation is particularly aggravating because it contributes to holiday traffic congestion and increases the likelihood of accidents.
"A person who is driving can see those items 100 yards or 200 yards away," said CHP spokesman Fred Miller. "Those who aren't paying attention or their vision isn't secure . . . will try to dodge it or miss it or run off the roadway.
"We've had vehicles pick up the lumber and throw it into their fenders. We've had people stop and people run right into them from behind."
Under the state vehicle code, Miller said, CHP officers can stop dump-bound trucks whose loads are not adequately tied down. Officers also can issue citations or tell drivers that their vehicle loads are unsafe and must be rearranged.
Miller predicted that the problem will become worse after Christmas, when trees and gift wrapping will be strewn over the roads.
"The Christmas debris is left all over after Christmas," he said.