The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has been conducting aerial surveillance and patrols on mountain highways 243 and 74, according to CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer. He confirmed that the effort has specifically targeted motorcyclists.
“Last year we had four fatalities on these roads,” said Meyer, “and that is four too many. Aerial surveillance is particularly helpful finding motorcyclists who are crossing over the yellow line. Air spotters can see that more clearly than patrol cars.”
Crossing the yellow line, riding above their experience levels, and speeding on unfamiliar mountain roads are the leading causes of motorcycle fatalities, said Meyer.
The sweeps, typically on Saturday and Sunday mornings, are funded by state traffic safety grants. This particular grant expires Sept. 30, said Meyer, but his department will apply for more grants in October.
“The goal is for both motorcycle and car violation enforcement,” said Meyer, with sensitivity not to demonize cyclists. “Most know the motorcycle laws,” he said. “But our job is to educate people to get more of them obeying the laws.”
Regular commuters from Idyllwild to Hemet will notice the recent installation of rumble strips on the center line coming into Mountain Center, along with the painting of large white arrows when passing lanes narrow on Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet.
Meyer said that Caltrans has certain constraints regarding the installation of specific motorcycle warning signs. “There are some civil liability concerns,” he noted. Of interest to Hill residents who have expressed annoyance with loud tricked-up bike mufflers, Meyer said that CHP has authority, under the vehicle code, to cite motorcycles for excessive noise or modified mufflers that are designed to enhance a bike’s growl.
Meyer said CHP has no specific statistics to show the effectiveness of the sweeps. “We just want them to know we’re there and we’re watching and, of course, ticketing.”