Although the headline presentation at the monthly Mountain Emergency Services Committee meeting last week was about new California Highway Patrol-related laws, questions and heightened interest centered around weather-related issues.
Caltrans was well represented at the meeting, along with a Hemet Unified School District safety representative, representatives from Mountain Disaster Preparedness and Marsha Kennedy, chair of the Idyllwild Snow Talk group investigating safety issues caused by snow visitors.
MEMSCOMM Coordinator Jerry Hagen opened the meeting with weather warnings, including the possibility of 4 to 7 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and gusts of wind reaching over 60 mph. And while the weekend storm was dangerous and violent in other parts of Southern California, the dire predictions for the Hill did not materialize. Similarly, talk of a follow-up storm on the Hill for Wednesday, is not being borne out by current predictions.
For upcoming weather predictions, readers should check the National Weather Service on the Town Crier’s website at www.idyllwildtowncrier.com and click on “Weather & Roads” at the far left top of the page.
Snow visitor issues, centering on road safety and visitor trespassing, were raised by Kennedy, MDP President Mike Feyder, Françoise Frigola, MDP’s Idyllwild Emergencies social media coordinator, as well as by Pine Cove Water District. Kennedy maintains a Facebook page devoted to snow visitor and resident property protection issues at www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=idyllwild%20snow%20talk. She is currently developing a website since she, and other residents believe, that this influx of snow visitors will continue in coming years. Idyllwild, unlike Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, does not have infrastructure-supported designated snow recreation areas with bathroom facilities and a variety of winter recreational offerings for visitors.
CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer reviewed new California laws that directly affect his agency and drivers throughout the state, including over 100 that affect vehicle codes. Of note were: $10 fee increase for vehicle registration; and extension of mandatory installation of DUI ignition interlock devices in cars for anyone convicted of one DUI. (In the past, the device was required after multiple convictions.)
He also talked about extension of stricter standards as to the blood-alcohol level that constitutes being legally under the influence for Uber and Lyft drivers to 0.04, the same as it is for commercial vehicle drivers; regulations for more frequent and rigid inspections of tour buses; and new regulations that prohibit holding a cell phone or wireless device for any purpose (other than for making 911 emergency calls or reporting of drunk drivers) while driving. This regulation does not apply to emergency vehicle operators or to use of short-wave or ham-radio microphones if they are connected and not wireless.
A more complete list of new traffic and driving laws can be found at www.chp.ca.gov/PressReleases/Pages/New-Traffic-Safety-Laws-Take-Effect-in-2017.aspx.