Editor's note: The Bee debuts "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.
By simply stating "10-8," a California Highway Patrol officer notifies the communications center he or she is ready for duty. The officer hops into a Ford, either the aging Crown Victoria or the new Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle, and heads out to check the assigned area for the day, aka, "sweep the beat" — and then what?
Most Californians are unaware of what makes up a typical day for an officer. If asked to list responsibilities of a CHP officer, typical responses might be to issue citations, arrest impaired drivers, investigate traffic collisions or even make money for the state (a common myth, since fines associated with traffic citations go to the county or city in which the citation was issued). Although the first three answers are technically correct, they are just part of the answer.
The CHP's goals are to prevent loss of life, injuries and property damage resulting from traffic collisions through enforcement, education and engineering. CHP officers are out on the road every day trying to provide the highest level of safety, service and security to the people of California.
This is done by enforcing laws (such as those governing impaired driving, speeding, failure to use seat belts and distracted driving) that have a significant impact on reducing the number of serious traffic collisions. The CHP strives to make drivers aware of these "primary collision factors" that cause thousands of injuries and even fatalities every year. CHP officers work every day to save lives, but we could use some help.
I have titled this article "10-8" because I want you to be ready. California's population is increasing. Our highway system is tasked with handling the needs of all Californians. The CHP is working hard to keep you safe, yet together, we can do so much more.
Said another way, one of the reasons for this new column is to challenge Fresno Bee readers to see their everyday driving from the perspective of the CHP.
I was born and raised here in the Valley, attending Reedley High School and graduating from Fresno State in 1995. At the age of 17, I enlisted in the Army National Guard (with a parental permission slip — thanks Mom and Dad) and, together with a tour in the Naval Reserve, spent a total of 10 years in the military. While working my way through college, I volunteered to be a fireman in Orange Cove and Reedley. At the same time I worked a few weekends a month as an emergency medical technician with Sequoia Safety Council in Reedley.
Still unsure which way to take my life, I heard a radio advertisement for the California Highway Patrol, joined in 2001, and haven't looked back since.
My career with the CHP has been exciting and ever changing. I was assigned to the Hollister-Gilroy Area (wonderful land of garlic) out of the academy. As a result of 9/11, I was activated by the Navy and spent one year at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. After being discharged from active duty, I transferred to the Los Banos area for the CHP before finally returning to Fresno County and working at the Central Division office as a training officer. In 2008, I became a flight observer on a CHP Cessna 206 flying out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
I am currently serving as the Central Division community outreach and media relations officer, where I utilize education to save lives every day.