Editor's note: This is the second installment of "On Duty," a column by officer David Singer of the California Highway Patrol's Central Division office in Fresno. This twice-monthly column will advise readers on how to be safe drivers and will explain how CHP officers handle problems they face on the roads every day.
Fourth of July! Independence Day! Words and phrases that invoke visions of fireworks, swim parties and backyard barbecues.
For the California Highway Patrol, you can add one more phrase, "Maximum Enforcement Period" or MEP as it is known around the office.
During MEPs the California Highway Patrol deploys the maximum number of uniformed personnel to address primary collision factor violations (a topic for another day), impaired drivers, and assure a prompt response to any incident causing a hazard or traffic delay.
Wow, that was a lot of big words straight out of policy, but I wanted you to know what our goals are. I am sure that most of you would agree these are all good.
The CHP formally recognizes six MEPs: New Year's Day, Memorial Day weekend, Independence Day, Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, and Christmas Day.
CHP policy requires area offices to deploy a minimum 80% of all available field officers on the road. The vast majority of CHP officers are out there working. The CHP realizes that during these periods, the roadways can be extremely busy places.
Thanksgiving is a prime example where, in several areas around the state, officers will get out of their cars and conduct active traffic control to try to keep everyone moving. Fourth of July, by contrast, sees less travel, but has its own challenges.
July 4 is often a one-day holiday. People do not usually travel long distances, but everyone is in a hurry. We all try to maximize that one day of fun, rushing around at the last minute to buy fireworks, food, etc.
That is why the CHP focuses on speeding during this MEP, not to mention the usual holiday problem of driving under the influence. Speed kills; there is no way to sugarcoat it. If we can slow drivers down, there will be fewer fatalities.
As a family man, I understand some of the pressures that go along with a holiday. Time is of the essence and other people I care about are relying on me.
However, with a little pre-planning and time management, we can all slow down and have a great day.
The CHP will deploy as many officers as we can to discourage bad behavior and assist people in need, but you can do so much more.
As I stated in my first column, this is a call to action. Make a difference and slow down. I encourage you to leave five to 10 minutes early and feel the difference by relaxing. I know when I drive to work, I give myself plenty of time. The difference it makes in my stress level, not just driving to work, but throughout the day, is noticeable.
Maximum enforcement periods were established to put all of our CHP officers out on the road on the same days as you, the people we protect and serve, are out there. Tragedy doesn't take holidays and neither do those of us in emergency services.
Slow down. Be safe. Happy Fourth!
Officer David Singer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.