Speeds watched closely on U.S. 101 near Prunedale


If you ignore speed-limit signs on Highway 101 through
Prunedale, better hold on to your wallet.
If you ignore speed-limit signs on Highway 101 through Prunedale, better hold on to your wallet.

The odds of getting a speeding ticket for breaking the 60-mph limit just got higher.

The California Highway Patrol started a yearlong effort last week to crack down on speeding along a five-mile stretch of Highway 101 between Highway 156 in Prunedale and the San Benito County line, which officials say is plagued by speed-related traffic crashes.

“We’re hoping we can get voluntary compliance with traffic laws,” said CHP spokesman Officer Robert Lehman. But he acknowledged, “There will be a lot more citations for speeding.”

The Monterey area office of the CHP is using a $224,112 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to pay for “at least a couple extra officers” to exclusively work traffic enforcement in the Prunedale corridor.

The anti-speeding campaign won’t reduce CHP coverage in other areas, Lehman said. The grant funds will be used to bring in officers on their time off and pay them overtime to work the Prunedale corridor.

That section of Highway 101 has the most severe record of speed-related traffic crashes in the county, Lehman said.

“The majority of accidents are caused by speed, but obviously there are other factors,” he said.

CHP officials gathered Wednesday morning at the Prunedale park-and-ride lot with local elected officials, community representatives and others to announce the start of the speeding crackdown.

“Some of the residents who showed up were extremely excited,” Lehman said. “They said it was a long time coming. They have to battle with it every day just to get home and get to work.”

According to the CHP, there were 42 traffic collisions in 2008 caused by drivers traveling at unsafe speeds in that section of the highway. None was fatal, but 13 people were injured in crashes.

“Improving safety for the motoring public is a top priority,” said CHP Capt. William Perlstein in a prepared statement. “Aggressive enforcement and education are a great start when it comes to removing dangerous drivers from the road.”

Pushing safe driving through advertising and information booths at community events will be part of the program, Lehman said.

The goal is simply to reduce the number of speed-related crashes on that highway section. “Any decrease is what we are looking for,” Lehman said.

Local CHP officers had a similar grant a few years ago to boost drunken-driving enforcement on Highway 1 between Moss Landing and the Santa Cruz County line.

“That was very successful. The (driving under the influence) crash rate dropped immensely,” Lehman said.

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