The California Highway Patrol is praising the success of an eight-day challenge that kept the Golden State's Interstate 80 Corridor free of fatalities, thanks to intensive enforcement and education efforts by officers.
An invitation by the Iowa State Patrol launched the CHP, and 10 other agencies from states ranging from coast to coast, into a challenge to keep that 2,900 miles of I-80 fatal free. The challenge began July 24 and continued through Wednesday.
With statistics showing that someone dies every eight days in California's stretch of the roadway, officers kicked their patrol and enforcement efforts into overdrive, focusing on the three primary collision factors of speed, following too closely and unsafe lane changes, officials said.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, two people died in crashes during the I-80 Challenge, the fatals occurring in Nebraska and Ohio.
In California, however, the trend seems to have broken, authorities said.
"The public played a vital role in the success of this challenge," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "It is amazing what you can accomplish when everyone works together focusing on safety. Lives were saved through an intensive educational campaign, the motoring public's cooperation, and additional visibility by our officers."
In the Golden Gate Division of the CHP, officers saw a total of 134 crashes on Interstate 80, issued a total of 2,349 citations and gave 1,037 warnings, said Officer Chris Parker, public information officer for the CHP's Fairfield office. Officers arrested 74 drivers suspected of driving under the influence and made another 94 arrests unrelated to DUI.
An estimated $9,700 in suspected drug profits were also seized during the period, Parker said. Officers issued 365 citations to commercial truck/bus drivers and gave another 139 warnings.
The overarching goal of the I-80 Challenge was to change driver behavior and focus education and enforcement on factors that lead to traffic fatalities, including speeding, driving under the influence, failure to wear seat belts and distracted driving.
Parker credited the efforts by officers to keep I-80 fatal-free during the period, but urged that there is still work to be done.
"They did an excellent job enforcing vehicle code violations as they saw them," he said. "However, there is a great need for the public to remain vigilant," fasten their seat belts, maintain safe speeds and give their full attention to the task of driving, avoiding distraction at all costs.