While students prepare to stuff themselves with turkey and cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, the Santa Barbara office of the California Highway Patrol is preparing for a weekend filled with traffic and potential accidents.
CHP spokesman Don Clotworthy said the highway patrol will be implementing a maximum-enforcement period to look for traffic law violators between 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24, and the end of Sunday, Nov. 28. He said all available CHP officers will patrol the roads and highways to ensure that drivers follow road regulations during the upcoming weekend, which he said has historically been a bad weekend for traffic and accidents.
“Thanksgiving is sort of the kick-off weekend for the holiday season,” Clotworthy said. “We’ll start having more travelers and more vehicles trying to travel on the highways at the same time. That can cause problems if drivers don’t act responsibly and safe.”
Clotworthy said the highway patrol typically increases the number of officers on duty during holidays, such as Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and said the money to pay the additional officers comes from the CHP’s annual budget. Officers on patrol during periods of increased enforcement issue citations to those committing driving infractions including speeding, reckless driving and driving under the influence. He said officers will also issue citations to people not wearing seatbelts and to drivers transporting young children not secured in car seats.
Students heading home for the weekend, Clotworthy said, are of particular concern to the CHP.
“We’re well aware that the university population in I.V. pretty much heads out of here for home this weekend,” Clotworthy said. “They can make that trip home to see their families a lot safer if they just focus on traveling safely.”
Clotworthy said students should allow themselves plenty of time to drive home and should be familiar with the route they plan to take. He said drivers should also perform maintenance checks – including tire pressure and fluid levels – on their vehicles before leaving to help cut down on the number of cars that break down on the freeway and hold up traffic.
“If we can keep the number of cars breaking down on the freeway low, we can cut down on the amount of traffic,” Clotworthy said. “If we can ensure we don’t have a lot of congestion, we don’t have to worry about other related problems. Traffic impact creates road rage with drivers, and we don’t need that, either.”
Drivers, Clotworthy said, should also get plenty of sleep before driving long distances and should under no circumstances drive after consuming alcohol.
“When you drive after drinking or when you drive fatigued, the statistical chance of an accident dramatically increases,” Clotworthy said. “That could affect innocent motorists. We’re also trying to protect them.”
Clotworthy said he thinks Thanksgiving weekend will go smoothly, as long as drivers take safe driving practices seriously.
“We want the student population to have a good time,” Clotworthy said. “We know it’s been a long time since they’ve gone home to see their families. … We just want to make sure they do it safely.”