Improving commercial vehicle safety keeps everyone on the road safe

Officers Celia Capulin and Josh Allen, of the California Highway Patrol's commercial vehicle enforcement unit, hand out safety-themed frisbees, stickers and educational literature to farmworkers at Reiter Berry Farms off State Route 129 in Watsonville Thursday. In the tri-county area encompassing Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey, the duo educate commercial businesses and their drivers about traffic and vehicle safety, as well as write citations for any violations they may find on the road. Their goal is to improve commercial vehicle safety, thus improving safety for all road users.

When people think of the California Highway Patrol, they may think of state troopers monitoring the state's highway for bad drivers, not auto mechanics poking around the inner workings of big rigs, buses, school buses, farm vehicles and other commercial grade vessels on the road. Last week, I rode shotgun with officers Celia Capulin and Josh Allen of the agency's commercial vehicle enforcement unit. While working nine day, 80 hour weeks, the pair spend part of their time roaming the highways of Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties in search of commercial vehicles with problems, such as nonworking brake lights. The other part of their time is spent educating drivers and companies about the importance of road safety – from proper permits to knowledge of traffic laws. Their mission is to reduce traffic collisions involving commercial vehicles. “I've seen a lot of fatalities where impatient drivers get stuck behind a commercial vehicle, cross the double yellow to pass and go head on with an oncoming big rig,” said Capulin, a 12 year veteran of the CHP who also educates commercial vehicle drivers about the things they can do to avoid situations like these. “I've seen so many commercial vehicle drivers involved in crashes that they didn't cause but their life is forever changed. One guy, it was his birthday when a 16-year-old pulled out in front of him. He broadsided her. She died. He has to think about that every birthday.” Companies interested in having Capulin and Allen visit their property to present safety information, answer questions and handout pamphlets and safety-themed gifts, can call (831) 796-2128. Bike Traffic School The county's next installment of Bike Traffic School is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, March 13. Cyclists who are curious about bike laws, as well as those who have received traffic citations for violating them can attend. The cost is $35 and pre-registration is required. For information, call (831) 454-7551 or visit www.sctrafficsafety.org/BikeTrafficSchool. KUDOS Award Street Smarts' Ramona Turner is among several people countywide being honored Wednesday by the county Commission on Disabilities for their role in promoting access for people with disabilities. The other 2011 annual KUDOS recipients are Veronica Elsea and Doug Patrick, of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's Elderly & Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee; Paul Schoellhamer and Charlie Dixon, for their work in getting a disability access path through Arana Gulch; Foster Anderson, of Shared Adventures; Jack McDonald, of the Vitamin Store; and Lisa Cotter, of the Staff of Life for designing a new accessible facility. The award ceremony is open to the public. I begins at 5:30 p.m. on the first floor of the County Government Center, at 701 Ocean St., among an exhibit of cartoons that highlight disabled access issues in a humorous way.
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