CHP, Caltrans caution drivers to slow down despite open roads

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Drivers need to ease up on their accelerators despite a major drop in congestion on roads throughout the Inland Empire stemming from the coronavirus emergency, as speeding citations for driving over 100 mph skyrocket, state officials said today.

“It is alarming to see the number of citations officers are writing for excessive speeds on California roadways,” California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley said. “Higher speeds can lead to much more serious injuries and significantly increase the chance of death should a crash occur. Keep yourself and those on the road around you safe. Slow down and drive at a safe, legal speed.”

Between March 19 — when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued his stay-at-home order for COVID-19 mitigation — and April 19, CHP officers wrote 2,493 tickets for speeding in excess of 100 mph, compared to 1,335 issued during the same period in 2019 — an 86% jump.

The portion of citations handed out by officers in the Blythe, Indio, Riverside, San Gorgonio and Temecula CHP offices was not immediately known.

Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said during that monthlong period, traffic volume on state roads plummeted 35%, leaving greater space for travel.

“Excessive speed and unsafe driving threaten everyone using our highway system,” Omishakin said. “Viewing less congested roads as an invitation to drive dangerously jeopardizes the safety of construction and maintenance crews, who are working to maintain reliable access to our highways when people need it most.”

California Office of Traffic Safety Director Barbara Rooney said lighter traffic “doesn’t give drivers the green light to travel over the speed limit.”

“Driving at a safe speed when you must go out is one way to keep you and your family safe during this pandemic,” she said.

Officials cautioned that construction zone restrictions remain in place, and motorists should continue to slow down and move over when they enter a work area along a freeway or highway.

Caltrans will begin posting the following message on 700 electronic signs statewide: “If You Must Travel, Do Not Speed. Keep Essential Workers Safe. Do Not Speed.”