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CHP Plans Air Assault on Holiday Weekend Speeders

Times Staff Writer

The California Highway Patrol’s nine airplanes will be flying over Interstate 5 this Labor Day weekend as part of a “high-visibility” crackdown on traffic violators from the Mexican border north to Oregon.

Working closely with ground units, the air patrols will start this afternoon and will be watching both auto and truck traffic through Monday night. If past performance is any measure, it will be the truckers who get the most speeding tickets, according to CHP officials.

Because changes were made in the speed limit laws 15 months ago--allowing cars to travel at 65 miles an hour on some rural highways but limiting trucks to 55 m.p.h.--speeding truckers are now easier to spot, a traffic expert said.

“Now truck drivers that are keeping up with the flow of (65 m.p.h.) traffic are much easier to spot,” explained CHP spokesman Kent Milton. The number of truckers cited for speeding violations jumped 69% in the past year, he said.

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Highest Accident Rates

The Labor Day weekend was picked for the special enforcement effort because traffic accident rates have been highest on this holiday, patrol officials said. Last year 64 people died on the state’s highways and 2,154 were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs over the holiday, CHP statistics show.

Patrol officials selected I-5 for the special enforcement effort because well over half of this 757-mile-long freeway has been segmented into 65-m.p.h. speed zones. The higher-speed zones stretch from Bakersfield to Stockton, Stockton to Sacramento, Sacramento to Redding and Dunsmuir to the Oregon line.

The enforcement efforts will focus on the high-speed zones and the transitions back to the 55-m.p.h. limit where I-5 passes through urban areas, CHP officials said.

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“Unfortunately, some motorists ignore the 10-m.p.h. drop in speed,” CHP Commissioner James E. Smith said. “Both limits will be strictly enforced.”

“We are putting all our planes in the air over I-5 . . . because aircraft are a most effective way of patrolling a highway as long as I-5,” Smith explained. The planes will not fly over the heavily congested Los Angeles basin. Instead, extra ground units will be used to patrol these segments of I-5, Smith said.

Motorists stopped for speeding in 55-m.p.h. zones often claim they didn’t see the reduced-speed signs, according to the CHP’s Milton. “We understand that if you’ve been going 65 for a hundred miles, you might miss (the signs) . . . that’s why we’re putting out the maps and doing this enforcement . . . it’s an educational effort, too.”


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