By JASON ECK
The California Highway Patrol is beefing up traffic patrols on county roads that generate the most complaints about drivers speeding and making other unsafe moves, thanks to an OK from the state on overtime hours.
"We'll be cracking down on violations that cause collisions and also on seat-restraint violations," said Lt. Cmdr. Les Quinn of the San Andreas area California Highway Patrol office.
The area office received permission for 160 hours of overtime that must be used before the end of the year on county-road enforcement only, not on state highways.
Local CHP officers are taking part in the Statewide Traffic Collision Reduction Project.
In 2002, Calaveras County CHP officers took reports on 641 collisions in which 285 people were injured.
They hope to bring that number down by zeroing in on specific areas through the use of radar and more rolling patrols.
In addition to looking for driving behaviors that cause accidents like speeding, unsafe passing and unsafe turns officers also will be looking at seat-belt use.
Quinn said officers are concentrating extra patrol on all county roads, but named three "trouble areas," where drivers regularly speed or where they cross double-yellow lines on curves, which can cause crashes.
Quinn said he hopes the effort cuts down on the amount of crashes his officers respond to. Overtime made a difference last year.
In 2001, there were 13 fatal crashes. In 2002, there were five, he said.
The San Andreas office has seen an average of 11 fatalities between 1999-2001.
"One is too many," Quinn said.
Officers already are out working those overtime hours in target areas where the CHP regularly hears about traffic problems.
Bill Howe, who has lived on the 9400 block of Mountain Ranch Road for 21/2 years, said he welcomes more enforcement because many drivers use his road to get to work.