California has seen a surge in speeding tickets in the past month as traffic has declined statewide due to COVID-19 restrictions, officials said Wednesday.
Between March 19 — the day the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect — and April 19, citations for speeding more that 100 mph have increased by 87%, according to a California Highway Patrol news release.
The monthlong period saw 2,493 citations given for the excessive triple-digit speeds compared to 1,335 in the same time frame a year ago, the release stated.
During a speed enforcement operation on the 5 Freeway in Southern California last week, CHP officers pulled over 14 drivers traveling more than 100 mph. The fastest was clocked at 119 mph, according to the Highway Patrol.
And last Friday night in Orange County, CHP officers ticketed several drivers for speeding, with the majority of those driving in excess of 100 mph, according to the agency.
“It is alarming to see the number of citations officers are writing for excessive speeds on California roadways,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said in the release.
At the same time, traffic volume on state roads has dropped by about 35% compared to the same time in 2019, as fewer drivers are traveling because of the stay-at-home order and related closure of nonessential businesses and schools.
The fact that roads are emptier doesn’t make speeding safe, officials warn.
“Higher speeds can lead to much more serious injuries and significantly increase the chance of death should a crash occur,” Stanley said. “Keep yourself and those on the road around you safe. Slow down and drive at a safe, legal speed.”
Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin added that driving at excess speeds also puts others at risks, including construction and maintenance crews who are working during the pandemic.
“Viewing less congested roads as an invitation to drive dangerously jeopardizes” their safety, he said.
CHP, Caltrans and the California Office of Traffic Safety have a joint message to drivers: “Slow down.”
To reinforce it, hundreds of electronic highway signs across the state will soon feature traffic safety-related messages.
They include, “If you must travel do not speed” and “Keep essential workers safe do not speed,” according to CHP.