Hwy 129 ‘Safety Corridor’ on hold, traffic enforcement is not

Dear Street Smarts, Q: You may recall that I wrote to you several months ago regarding the lack of traffic enforcement on Highway 129 between Watsonville and Highway 101. On one occasion after I wrote to you, I did see several CHP units doing enforcement out there, but since then I rarely see any CHP units there. On Feb. 10, there was another fatal accident on Highway 129 near Watsonville. It appears that this accident was caused by a driver passing unsafely – and illegally. I really feel that the CHP needs to place more of a priority on traffic enforcement on Highway 129. Steve James, Watsonville A: “Highway 129 has been among our top priorities and I am glad to see that Mr. James recognizes the correlation between traffic enforcement and collisions,” said officer Sarah Jackson, spokesperson for the CHP's Aptos office. “CHP officers recognized the need for increased enforcement and improvements to Highway 129 several years ago.” At that time, one of the officers wrote a grant proposal requesting funding for a safety task force similar to that created on Highway 17 through the state Office of Traffic Safety. The goal was to designate Highway 129 as a “Safety Corridor,” Jackson said. “The grant was approved and funding for additional officers on Highway 129 began in August of 2010,” she said. “Later that same month, use of the funds was suspended.” When the funds were restored, officers had five months to make good on the grant before it expired in March 2011, said Jackson, while noting that when the CHP had use of the 129 Safety Corridor grant, citations increased while fatal and injury collisions dropped significantly. “Unfortunately, this grant was not approved for continuation,” she added. “We are still doing our best to deploy our officers where they are needed. We know, perhaps better than anyone, that our enforcement activity prevents collisions. We also know that Highway 129 demands our attention. We respond to the fatalities and injury collisions and see first-hand the devastation families experience.” In 2011, officers wrote 549 citations to bad drivers, according to statistics from Jackson. Of those, 259 tickets – nearly half – were for speeding. Officers also made five DUI arrests. The other citations officers wrote were for:
  • Driving the wrong way;
  • Passing unsafely;
  • Not wearing or incorrect use of seat belts;
  • Failure obey stop signs and/or traffic signals;
  • Following too close;
  • Violating the right-of-way of another vehicle; and
  • Commercial vehicle regulation violations, such as lack of tow chain use, farm labor vehicle safety violations and carrying too much weight.
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