By Ted Hickman
Special to Dixon Patch
At the scene of a on Interstate 80 in Dixon recently, where eight people were transported to the hospital, I asked a group of emergency responders at the scene, “What the heck is going on with the Dixon stretch of highway between Vacaville and Davis?”
Accidents, some really severe, are occurring about every weekend with some scattered during the week. The responses I received were pretty much unanimous from law enforcement and first responders.
- People are driving way too fast.
- People are distracted (cell phone etc.).
- Drivers don’t allow enough distance from cars in front of them.
- Drivers change lanes without a signal and don’t look over their shoulders to confirm traffic.
- The roadway is in bad shape.
To this end I went for a “ride along” with the California Highway Patrol to witness first hand a different view than I get when I drive between Dixon and Vacaville or Dixon and Davis.
I see people who over estimate their driving abilities, trying to drive while: eating, texting, tweeting, talking on the phone, drinking, smoking, putting on makeup, reading, yelling at the kids in the back seat, etc. And apparently doing other things I don’t even want to guess about.
While spending several hours riding along with 14 year veteran CHP Officer Scott Lander things were different.
Everybody on that afternoon was doing just what they should. We couldn’t even find a distracted driver, talking, texting, eating, weaving, drinking … nothing.
There were of course speeders (it took less than one minute of find one on the radar gun down by Vacaville) but the distracted drivers the CHP is trying to crack down on just weren’t where we were, when we were there.
The CHP is working really hard to reduce accidents and prevent deaths and injuries caused by “distracted” drivers, specifically by targeting them. Officer Lander went to every parked vehicle and to check on people who pulled just off the freeway, on shoulder, to make or receive a phone call.
He said, “That was nice of them to do that, but it is illegal. You can only stop just off the highway to make an emergency call. Otherwise go to the nearest exit, get off the off ramp and find a safe place to park … if you really have to talk while driving use a Bluetooth.”
On the way to the CHP office in Fairfield, I saw the “distracted,” as Officer Lander said he does every day on his way to work. But there must have been a CHP vibe in the air during the hours we spent driving between Vacaville and Davis because the most non-typical thing that happened is when the officer had to slow traffic down twice to remove debris from the fast lane on the highway, which by the way is a frightening experience but part of their job.
One was a chair and the other a big chunk of tire.
As bad as the road is Officer Lander said he didn’t think the road surface had very little, if anything, to do with accidents.
The reason for this article is for readers to raise their level of awareness so they can drive the accident prone stretches of the interstate highway between Vacaville and Davis, hopefully dodge the distracted and mentally impaired and make it home safe and sound.
People are hurt out there on a regular basis. People are killed on those stretches on a regular basis. People and their families are maimed out there on a regular basis…get the picture?
You may be doing right…you may very well be in the right… you realize you can also be dead right?
On the other end of the distracted driver disasters is the that responded to 167 traffic accident with injury calls in 2011; 72 of which were on the highway. That comes out to not quite two a week on the freeway in this area. So far this year there have been 22 such calls to respond to injury accidents on the highway alone.
I met with Dixon Fire Chief Aaron McAlister and Fire Division Chief Ron Karlen to get their take on the situation and their advice.
These two men have over 50 years firefighting/rescue experience between them. They’ve pretty much seen it all.
They agreed with the CHP; Driving too fast and distracted drivers seem to be the biggest cause of accidents.
The Dixon Fire Protection District stretches a huge 320 square miles. According to Chief McAlister he doesn’t feel the Dixon stretch of the interstate proportionally has any more accidents than elsewhere in the county.
He added there are actually more injury accidents yearly in the city and on the rural roads than on the highway.
Chief McAlister had three pieces of advice for readers:
- Whenever you can, drive in the center lane so you have an escape route on either side should something happen.
- You should be able to name all vehicles around you; front, back, left and right. Know who is around you and you’ll be aware of what’s going on and you can have an escape route should something happen.
- Rural drivers need to be aware of the soft shoulders just off the road. When they get distracted and just drift off the road for a second it can be the cause for very bad things to happen.
Division Chief Karlen offered:
- Drive defensively always know where you can go and try to anticipate what the other vehicles around may do.
- Watch out for animals on the rural roads, especially at night and have the mind set vehicles in the rural areas WON’T stop at stop signs.
- He also added he was at an accident where a teen’s dad arrived and demanded to see his son’s dead body in the body bag. It was such a heart-wrenching experience he told his family about it at home he became very emotional and told his children he never wanted to be that dad. With summertime just around the corner he said, “Some family somewhere will get a visit telling a family their son or daughter won’t be coming home…hopefully it won’t happen again but statistics prove otherwise. Talk to your children now about drinking and driving…we see the end results of this type of behavior much too often."
The DFPD just received a non-matching grant for $80,000 (see photo) which allowed them to purchase a new portable set of the latest “Jaws of Life” extraction equipment. Although both men don’t relish the thought of having to use this high tech equipment again, they say it will save some lives of those trapped in the many mangled vehicles they will see on down the road.
Editor's note: This story also appeared in as well as Hickman's website available at tedhickman.com