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CHP speeding tickets drop, excessive speeders increase in Santa Maria during pandemic

CHP speeding tickets drop, excessive speeders increase in Santa Maria during pandemic

Santa CHP tickets

A handful of speeding citations handed out to Santa Maria drivers in the weeks following the March 19 stay-at-home order, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

Speeding citations issued by California Highway Patrol in the Santa Maria area have dropped, while excessive speed violations have increased as highway traffic has significantly diminished during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CHP. 

Total speeding tickets issued by the CHP in Santa Maria for March and April 2020 were 570 compared to 1,398 in the same time period last year, CHP Officer Ben Smith said. 

Additionally, the number of citations for excessive speed increased, with seven such tickets issued for March and April 2019 and 19 issued for the same period in 2020.

Citations for speeding cover speeds beyond the posted speed limit up to 99 mph, while citations for excessive speed apply only to speeds of 100 mph and higher, and each is covered under a separate penal code. 

The statewide stay-at-home order issued March 19 has led to a reduction in traffic because fewer people are on the roads, leading to a decrease in overall speeding citations, Smith said.

But that same order has also led to more open roads, which may tempt some drivers to speed excessively, he said. 

Besides a reduction in traffic congestion statewide, Smith said the order has led to a notable reduction in the number of drivers on roadways in the Santa Maria division. 

The Santa Maria division covers a north-south area from Highway 166 to a boundary about one mile north of Highway 154, known locally as Twin Oaks, and an east-west area ranging roughly from Highway 33 to Guadalupe.

Between March and April of 2019 and 2020, the overall number of speeding citations the CHP issued in the Santa Maria division dropped by more than half, while 100-plus-mile-an-hour tickets more than doubled. 

Speeding tickets issued in March 2019 and 2020 were 726 and 445, respectively, while those issued in April 2019 and 2020 equaled 672 and 125, respectively. 

Tickets for 100-plus mph in March 2019 and 2020 were the same at five each, while those issued in April 2019 and 2020 jumped from two to 14, respectively. 

Most of the citations were issued to drivers along highways 101 and 166 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Smith said. 

Highway patrol officers aren't changing enforcement methods, it's just easier to spot those driving more than 100 mph, he said. 

"People are kind of taking their eyes off the speedometer," Smith said. "Stop speeding. There's a speed limit for a reason."  

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The following is taken from the Santa Maria Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

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