The holiday season is upon us which typically comes with travel to celebrate with family and friends. This is a joyous time of year, but too often what we in law enforcement see amid the fun and frivolity, is tragedy that occurs as the result of poor decisions made behind the wheel.
Alcohol was the primary collision factor in more than a dozen fatal collisions and in numerous injury crashes during the 2011 holiday period.
Last year during the Christmas holiday, 14 people lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions; another 25 during the New Year’s holiday. Sadly, more than half of those killed in the jurisdiction patrolled by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were not wearing seatbelts. While seatbelts may have saved the lives of these vehicle occupants, alcohol was the primary collision factor in more than a dozen fatal collisions and in numerous injury crashes during the 2011 holiday period. In each of those cases, someone chose to get behind the wheel of an automobile after having too much to drink. Victim advocates know all too well the heartache and grief that follows in these cases, and we are thankful the Victim Compensation Program is there to help surviving victims and family members of those who are killed in these senseless collisions.
The CHP and law enforcement agencies across the state will be out in force again this holiday season to assist motorists and to prevent additional tragedies from occurring on our roadways. Each holiday season, law enforcement officers arrest hundreds of people who are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These motorists present a risk not only to themselves, but also to those sharing the roadway with them. The CHP, local law enforcement, the Office of Traffic Safety, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration are joining together in the coming days to remind motorists to keep safety in mind during the holidays.
Motorists can help keep the roads safe by following these simple steps:
- Always buckle up and secure children in a proper child safety seat.
- Never drink and drive. If you are going to celebrate, designate a driver, use public transportation or make arrangements to stay where you are for the night. Remember, alcohol impairs people differently, and even a small amount of alcohol may be enough for a motorist’s driving to be affected.
- Being sleepy or fatigued can have a similar effect on a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. If you are traveling long distances, plan ahead, and get plenty of rest before driving.
- Obey the traffic rules and drive defensively.
- If you see a suspected drunk driver on the road, call 911 to report the motorist to law enforcement.
- Finally, eliminate distractions inside the vehicle.
I wish you all happy holidays and safe travels wherever your celebration may take you.
On March 1, 2008, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Joseph A. Farrow Commissioner of the CHP, and was later reappointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. Currently, Commissioner Farrow commands more than 7,800 uniformed 3,600 non-uniformed, 700 senior volunteers, and 200 Explorer personnel, and oversees a budget of $1.9 billion.
Commissioner Farrow is recognized for his innovative leadership approach in public administration, such as implementing the California Law Enforcement Challenge, effecting the CHP’s accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, and creating an Office of Inspector General to ensure accountability and transparency of the Department.