CHP Cites Hundreds of Truckers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A crackdown Thursday by the California Highway Patrol against dangerous drivers of big trucks resulted in 1,303 tickets in the first seven hours, a spokesman said.

Excessive speed was the most frequent violation, producing 542 citations between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m., the CHP said.

Officers also ticketed drivers of 55 passenger vehicles statewide for such offenses as cutting off trucks in traffic or tailgating, said spokesman Tom Marshall.

A strike force of about 1,500 officers from Calexico in the south to the Oregon state line was ordered by CHP Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick to make the sweep against hazardous truckers.

It was aimed at combating what Helmick has called an unacceptably high level of injury and death caused by the drivers of 18-wheelers.

Helmick said the unusual enforcement action demonstrated that "We are serious about this crackdown."

"This was not just a one-day event. We will be continuing this stepped-up enforcement each week for the foreseeable future," Helmick said.

Speeding tickets can be very costly, the commissioner said, especially in the Central Valley, where fines of $700 to $800 are typical. In Southern California, they can range from $150 to $250, he said.

Marshall said it is unlikely that similar sweeps will be conducted statewide, unless they become necessary. Instead, he said, similar crackdowns will occur once or twice a week in any of the patrol's eight geographic regions without notice.

The patrol's central division, which includes the inviting long straightaways of Interstate 5 and California 99 through the San Joaquin Valley, produced 318 truck tickets, the most for any region during Thursday's sweep, the CHP said. Of those, 189 were for excessive speed.

The CHP region that includes the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties followed closely with 313 tickets written against truckers, 62 of those for speeding. Another 126 were cited for driving in the wrong lanes and improper turn signals.

Stops of truck drivers in Los Angeles County during the morning sweep accounted for 257 citations, 109 of them for excessive speed. In the region covering Orange and San Diego counties, 46 tickets were issued to truckers, 11 for speeding.

Lt. Bridget Lott at CHP's Santa Ana office, which patrols the largest portion of freeways in Orange County, said the number of officers on the road was the same as on a normal shift--14 out of the office's 96 officers.

The big difference Thursday was the focus on commercial vehicles, Lott said. Four citations and four warnings were issued.

"It was no more busy than any other day out here," Lott said. "Yes, we're going to focus on trucks, but we've got traffic collisions to still investigate, motorists to assist. We have a lot of other things to do."

In the San Juan Capistrano CHP office, Officer Tony Camilleri said the biggest dangers officers see are speeding and unsafe lane changes.

Camilleri said the heightened presence of CHP officers in the area may have acted as a deterrent.

Also, traffic was unusually heavy. Camilleri said the eight-mile portion of Interstate 5 that his office patrols was closed for much of the day at La Paz Road, causing some bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"It just so happens we couldn't do much," he said.

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Times staff writer Ana Cholo contributed to this report.

FOR THE RECORD Los Angeles Times Saturday June 16, 2001 Orange County Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction Truckers ticketed--In Friday's California section, an incorrect photo caption was placed under a picture of a trucker being cited for speeding by a CHP officer. The wrong name was given for the trucker and he was not involved in any crash.
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