I recently attended a speaking engagement where I was asked a great question: What is the California Highway Patrol doing to keep Californians safe? As I answered, I could not help but think what a fantastic article that question would make.
The mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of “Safety, Service, and Security” to the people of California. How do we achieve this?
Each year the CHP follows the Strategic Highway Safety Plan – a statewide, coordinated plan providing a framework for reducing fatalities and severe injuries to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists on public roads. The goal is to provide California with a safe transportation system for all users. Actions designed to achieve these goals are developed from the four E’s of highway safety: engineering, education, enforcement and emergency medical services.
The strategic plan has identified 15 challenge areas and has adopted steps to achieve these goals. The CHP has a leadership role in nine of the challenge areas and a significant stake in the remaining six because each has an impact on highway safety. Here are a few of the challenge areas and how the CHP works to keep Californians safe:
▪ Alcohol and drug-impaired driving. Getting the impaired driver off the road has always been a primary focus of the CHP. We aggressively pursue our goal of protecting human lives through traffic collision prevention, and DUI is often a primary cause of collisions. The CHP also recognizes the use of marijuana and prescription drugs are on the rise. Officers are required to attend the Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement training. After completion of this course, officers are encouraged to receive additional training and become a drug recognition expert. This training is imperative to teaching officers how to identify the unusual signs and symptoms of drug use.
▪ Distracted driving. A distraction is anything that diverts the driver’s attention away from the primary tasks of navigating a vehicle and responding to critical events. Teenagers are considered most at risk for distracted driving. Because of this, the CHP is heavily involved with the Impact Teen Drivers program. Its goal is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths suffered by teen drivers as a result of distracted driving and poor decision-making.
▪ Speeding and aggressive driving. Many collisions involving major injuries or death result from driving too fast. In 2016, the CHP issued 635,913 traffic citations for motorists who were found to be exceeding the maximum speed limit. The CHP does not receive any direct funding from fines, penalties, or fees collected from these citations written by our officers. Officers issue citations to simply gain compliance with traffic laws. Education through enforcement is the primary focus each time an officer issues a citation.
Making the roadway a safe place for all to travel remains the CHP’s primary goal. By identifying and educating the public on these three major challenges, we hope to prevent injuries and deaths on our state's roadways.