Alcohol, motorcyles primary factors in fatal accidents, says CHP
By Karen Brainard
Two California Highway Patrol officers addressed safety concerns on state Route 67 at the Ramona Community Planning Group’s Aug. 2 meeting, noting speed is currently not the primary factor in fatal collisions.
Lt. Tommie Cocroft from the El Cajon CHP office said that during the first two quarters of this year, specifically in Ramona, fatal collisions primarily came from motorcycles, driven mainly by East County residents. Since the third quarter began, collisions in the East County have been primarily alcohol-related, he said.
“It’s a huge problem here for some reason,” Cocroft said, adding that it’s happening all over.
According to Cocroft, they are seeing that drivers who have been drinking often avoid the major roads and instead take backcountry roads, and that’s where the accidents are happening.
Cocroft said he has worked for CHP for 17 years, has extensive experience and knowledge of accidents in the area, and sees all the reports of fatal accidents.
“What strikes me the most is I’m not sure the community is aware that this is a huge problem, especially as it relates to motorcycles and alcohol,” he said. “They may be looking at it as a social problem, but the social problem has created drastic effects.”
Budget cuts limit the amount of CHP enforcements on the road, he said, noting that CHP staffing levels have remained the same as in the mid-1970s but the population has increased.
“I think everyone would agree that the large expansion that has happened in the East County has drastically affected the roadways,” said Cocroft.
Grant funding can go toward increased enforcement and education, he said, adding that CHP will be rolling out an educational campaign soon.
RCPG member Chad Anderson and resident Joe Minervini asked about parking an unmanned CHP car that is no longer in service as a decoy along the highway. The lieutenant said CHP has no control over former vehicles and that would need approval from Sacramento. He also said that CHP would probably be found at fault if a driver causes an accident because he slowed down on the highway to see if the decoy is a real CHP vehicle.
Resident Robin Joy Maxson suggested adding flashing lights before accident-prone curves to warn drivers to slow down, and she asked the RCPG Highway 67 Subcommittee to reach out to Caltrans, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the CHP, and the county to request small improvements to increase safety on the roadway.
Some of the recent improvements, including rumble strips, double yellow lines, yellow reflectors, and radar signs, have helped, said CHP Officer Jeff Christy, who lives in Ramona.
“Just from my experience, speed has gone way down,” he said.
Cocroft said the CHP welcomes the community’s concerns and suggestions.