Although travel may be down this Memorial Day weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic, California Highway Patrol officers throughout the state, including the Southland, are still be on the job, cracking down on drunken or otherwise unsafe drivers.
Since 6 p.m. Friday, the CHP has conducted a statewide "maximum enforcement period" during which all available officers hit the streets to catch drunken and drug-impaired motorists, as well as other traffic violators. The holiday weekend operation will conclude at 11:59 p.m. Monday.
"No matter what else changes in our world, the people of California can always count on the CHP to provide the highest level of safety, service and security," CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said. "We will continue to enforce the traffic laws, help motorists who are in trouble and educate people about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving."
Authorities acknowledged traffic on freeway, highways and roadways will likely lack the significant traffic volumes of the past, as residents remain closer to home amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
However, Stanley noted a surge in speeding incidents involving motorists driving in excess of 100 mph because of reduced traffic is one reason why officers will not relax during the enforcement period.
"The rules still apply, no matter how little traffic there may be," he said. "Obey the speed limit, fasten your seat belt, drive sober, and put down your phone."
During last year's Memorial Day weekend maximum enforcement period, the CHP issued 1,099 citations, compared to 1,060 the prior year, according to the agency. Twenty-one vehicle occupants were killed in collisions investigated by the CHP during the 2019 operation. Statewide, in all jurisdictions, a total 34 fatalities occurred.
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Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies will also be deployed to look out for drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol this weekend.
"As we slowly travel down the road to reopening, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department encourages everyone to listen to advice from public health officials and be responsible during these trying times," said Sgt. Robert Hill.
The department warned that some prescription medications may also interfere with one's ability to drive, and they encouraged drivers to always follow the directions for medications regarding "operating heavy machinery."
"This Memorial Day weekend will be much different than years before due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Hill said. "But when it comes to protecting your family and getting around, it doesn't mean we have to get complacent. If you plan on drinking, stay at home."
The public was also advised not to attend large gatherings this Memorial Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Practice physical distancing measures, when feasible, by staying at least six feet away from others," Hill said.