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CHP credits decline in accidents to stepped up visibility

The California Highway Patrol issued 28,000 speeding tickets to drivers on San Diego freeways last year. That's a big number, but it is down from the year before. The CHP says the number of accidents related to speeding are also down. The patrol credits their stepped up visibility and a 20-percent increase in what they call enforcement contacts.
Reporter Jane Morton spent a morning on patrol for speeders and filed this report.

California Highway Patrol Officer Dan Kyle cruises San Diego freeways looking for drivers in a hurry, and at times, he has some choices to make.

Kyle: . .looking for who the fast guy is and looks like we've got a few choice here."

Kyle turns on his overhead lights ...

Kyle: We're good for about 84 miles an hour and he's pulling ahead of me a little bit, both of those vehicles. I'm going to pull both of these guys over, let's go.

. .and pulls over two people. Once the drivers are on the side of the freeway, Kyle makes contact.

Kyle: "Hey! The reason why I stopped you is because you were going 82 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone. Could I see your driver's license and registration?

How about 75 miles an hour?

The California Highway Patrol says when the state speed limit was lifted from 55 miles per hour to 65, the actual average highway speeds also rose . . to 75 miles per hour.

Gregg: People were comfortable with that for a while but the it sort of creeped up and now we're looking at average speeds of around 70, 75 miles an hour on the freeway.

You would think speed related accidents would be up, that's not the case, according to CHP spokesman Gregg.

Gregg: We had about 3,900 in 2004..in 2005, we had 3,700 speed related accidents. Our enforcement contacts are up. Our, even though our speed related citations may be down a bit, we're looking at a reduction in speed related accidents and that's a good thing.

Back on patrol, Officer Kyle says all San Diego freeways are ripe for speeders but he knows a sweet spot.

Kyle: The highest speeds I see are on the 15. Our area goes up to Via Rancho Parkway and I'd say the highest speeds I've seen are between Via Rancho Parkway and especially down here at the 163 split.

Interstate 15 at Kearny Villa road -- that's where Officer Kyle waits at an onramp to I-15 and spots a driver darting in and out of traffic. The driver's goal, to stay at a high rate of speed. Officer Kyle's goal...to ticket this driver whom he clocks at 89 mph.

Kyle: Right now we are at 88 miles per hour. This guy has no idea I'm here. He's tailgated, he's made numerous lane changes to get around other vehicles. He's going to be surprised to see the lights behind him. Oh, how about that?

It turns out the guy is a woman.

Kyle: Okay maam, this citation is for driving 88 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone. I'm going to give you a break on following to close.

The woman's excuse...she was late for a class. Officer Kyle doesn't leave a lot of opportunity for excuses.

Kyle: I try to keep the excused down by making my presentation on the brief side and to the point. The more I give a person to vend the more they're going to have to say. So I just try to make it brief and to the point and then get them back on the freeway safely.

Rush, rush, rush...that's the society in which we live, according to Psychiatrist Dr. Ed Yager

Yager: "Certainly both parents are working and anxious to get home and anxious to get whatever the task is, completed.

Dr. Yager says as you press the accelerator beyond the speed limit you're pressing yourself into high levels of stress.

Yager: Try reducing, whatever you're driving, five miles an hour and notice the reduction in stress you experience just from doing that.

That's a not a bad exchange says Dr Yager, who gave it a try himself and it worked. For KPBS News, I'm Jane Morton.

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