Optimism about the state’s economy may be behind an estimated 4.1 million Californians deciding to travel 50 miles or more from home this Fourth of July holiday weekend, a 19.3-percent increase over last year, according to AAA of Northern California. Of them, 3.5 million will drive to their destination, a 20.2-percent jump over 2009.
“A sense of contained optimism has created a hearty increase of travelers, compared to last year when the recession caused many people to change their plans,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA spokeswoman. “Potential impacts to travel plans, like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or volatility in the European financial market, aren’t stopping Californians from traveling.”
If you do plan to be among those road trippers, the California Highway Patrol encourages you to follow the rules of the road, particularly the new Slow Down, Move Over law that went into effect earlier this year. And, of course, you’re also urged not to drink and drive.
Sure, you may hear those types of “drive safe” messages all the time, but this July 4th weekend, the message is personal.
“In the light of the recent, tragic loss of five CHP Officers on California’s roadways, please be mindful of the Slow Down, Move Over law when approaching emergency scenes,” said Officer Sarah Jackson, spokeswoman for the Aptos area CHP office. “Stay sober, slow down, and follow the rules of the road. These rules are for your own safety and the safety of those who patrol the roadways, protecting all Californians. Remember, the short term decisions we make behind the wheel have potential for long term consequences.”
Since May 7, five CHP officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Of them, three where killed during traffic stops. The other two died while enforcing traffic laws. Here’s more information about them:
- May 7 – Officer Dan Benavides, 39, of the CHP’s Border Division, was conducting speed enforcement in a fixed-wing CHP aircraft when the plane crashed for unknown reasons into the rough terrain near Ocotillo Wells. The 13 year CHP veteran is survived by his wife and 9-year-old daughter.
- June 9 – Officer Philip Ortiz, a 48-year-old West Los Angeles motorcycle officer, was conducting a traffic stop on the right shoulder of Interstate 405 near National Boulevard when he was struck from behind by a motorist that was using the shoulder to pass stopped traffic and access the off ramp. The 28 year CHP veteran succumbed to his injuries June 22. He is survived by his wife, parents and sister.
- June 11- Officer Thomas Coleman, San Bernardino motorcycle officer, was engaged in a pursuit to stop a stolen vehicle when he was struck and killed by a big rig. The driver of the stolen vehicle Coleman, 33, was attempting to stop has been charged with murder. The seven year CHP veteran is survived by his wife, two young children, mother, brother and three sisters.
- June 27 – Barstow Officer Justin McGrory, 28, was giving a field sobriety test to a suspected drunken driver on the right shoulder of Interstate 15 south of Hodge Road when he was struck by another suspected DUI driver who swerved off the roadway. His partner and other responding CHP officers provided medical aid until paramedics arrived. Both suspected DUI drivers were arrested. McGrory, a three year CHP veteran and son of a retired CHP lieutenant, is survived by his parents, expectant wife, son, stepson, and stepdaughter.
- June 27 – Templeton Officer Brett Oswald, 48, was waiting for a tow truck to pick up an abandoned vehicle in an unincorporated area when a driver lost control of her vehicle, crossed the double yellow lines and struck the officer. The 20 year CHP veteran is survived by his wife and parents.
To make a donation to the fallen officer’s families, contact the CHP 11-99 Foundation.