Highway Patrol steps up efforts on Interstate 80 | SierraSun.com
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Highway Patrol steps up efforts on Interstate 80

NIK DIRGA, Sierra Sun Editor

On a beautiful Sunday morning in Truckee, a California Highway Patrol car is racing at a little more than 110 miles per hour down Interstate 80.

Its quarry is a black Lexus clocked at about 95 mph near the Highway 267/89 off ramp, where the speed limit is 65.

CHP officer James Giraudo is determined not to lose the Lexus, which is heading toward the dangerous canyons of I-80 that slope down to Reno – canyons where no driver wants to be going 110 mph.

Finally, the Lexus is in view, and when the driver sees the CHP patrol vehicle’s blaring lights and siren, he pulls off into a narrow turnout in the canyon.

The driver’s first words, according to Officer Giraudo, is, “I thought I was only doing 65.”

Needless to say, that driver gets a speeding ticket.

The Sacramento-area resident is one of eight speeders that Giraudo pulls over in a little more than an hour on just one typical Sunday morning.

Giraudo, the Truckee California Highway Patrol station’s highest volume ticket-writer, writes an average of 175 tickets a month.

“Our number one job is to reduce the mileage death rate,” Giraudo said.

The CHP is stepping up enforcement on Interstate 80’s Auburn to Reno corridor, with two new spotter planes and a new helicopter assigned to the area.

Spotter planes patrol the skies over high traffic areas, pinpointing speeders and notifying CHP patrol cars on the ground so they can track them down. The helicopter is used in search and rescue missions.

The planes rotate through the CHP enforcement division, which covers from Davis to the Nevada state line and from Chico to Tracy. They typically patrol Truckee skies two days a month, and more often if needed.

The CHP’s new Cessna 206 planes fly far better than the old planes, said Bill Brooks, CHP flight officer.

“They’re a really smooth ride,” Brooks said.

Brooks is one of several flight officers who cover the Sacramento region for the CHP.

“I think generally the enforcement is working,” Brooks said. “The people know the airplane does work I-80 and it’s always a possibility it will be there.”

There were nine traffic fatalities on I-80 between Auburn and Reno from January to July 2000 – five in the Auburn area, three in Gold Run, and one in Truckee. Fatality figures for the second half of 2000 are not yet available.

The CHP has attempted to reduce that fatality rate.

“What we’re trying to do is get people to slow down here before they get to the canyon,” said CHP Public Affairs Officer Todd Kettwig.

“I stop an average of maybe 20 people a day,” Giraudo said. Most of those speeders are going more than 75 miles per hour, he estimated.

There is no quota for tickets written, said Giraudo, and the fines earned from tickets do not go back to the Highway Patrol.

“Every citation we write, the CHP doesn’t get a dime of it,” he said. “It all goes back to the counties.”

The majority of tickets Giraudo writes are to out-of-towners. Of eight speeders stopped in one morning, all were from the Bay Area or Sacramento.

Giraudo, who has been stationed in Truckee nearly four years, said the fastest car he’s ever stopped in his career was a Ferrari going approximately 117 miles an hour. He said most drivers are more thoughtful.

“The majority of people out here aren’t bad,” he said.

Giraudo also believes personal contact plays a big part in reducing a speeder’s chance of getting future tickets.

“I’ve learned if you take just a couple of extra minutes and talk with them, they understand what you do and learn from it,” he said.

Despite what many drivers think, there’s no “cutoff” speed rate at which you have to be going to get a ticket.

“You have to drive for the conditions,” Giraudo said.

On one occasion, Giraudo’s patrol vehicle sits just next to the Agricultural Inspection Station on I-80, facing eastbound traffic.

It’s a very foggy morning, with a visibility of under 500 feet. Giraudo’s radar picks up a Toyota 4-Runner doing 78 miles an hour coming down the summit into Truckee. Giraudo steers his patrol car back onto the highway and pulls the driver over.

“If you hit the 75 mile an hour mark in conditions like this, you’re gonna get a ticket,” he said.


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