Grant helps O’side police ensure traffic safety

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside police recently received a $227,000 California Office of Traffic Safety grant to beef up enforcement and provide education.

Sgt. Ignacio Lopez said funds have already been put to good use.

“We’ve had a number of saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints,” Lopez said. “The main emphasis is to ID impaired drivers, and do enforcement and education.”

Vehicle collisions and accident fatalities have been rising statewide over the past five years, including bike and pedestrian fatalities.

The state goal is to have zero fatal accidents.

Lopez said zero fatalities is a worthy goal to strive for, but difficult to achieve with drivers under the influence of alcohol, drugs or driving while distracted.

Lopez added even eating or changing the car radio can create enough distraction to contribute to an accident.

“When you’re going 60 miles per hour, 150 feet per second, it doesn’t take a lot of time to rear-end someone,” Lopez said. “Drivers need to be more diligent.”

Last fiscal year Oceanside had 662 vehicle collisions that caused injuries, and eight, which resulted in fatalities.

The same year the city saw 42 vehicle collisions with bikes, 41 with injuries, and 69 collisions with pedestrians, 62 with injuries and three with fatalities.

Grant supported enforcement efforts will hone in on drivers who are under the influence.

In addition to DUI check points and saturation patrols, Oceanside police work with the San Diego County Probation Department to perform compliance checks on those prohibited from drinking as part of their probation.

Police also conduct sting operations to arrest those prohibited from driving during probation.

Enforcement will also crack down on drivers who speed, run red lights, or are distracted.

Education programs will be aimed at vehicle drivers and cyclists.

Lopez said police are working with the Oceanside Bike Advisory Committee, and will teach bike safety lessons to middle school students this spring.

“We don’t really get involved in going to schools,” Lopez said. “The grant money allows us to make presentations.”

Lopez added he hopes seeing an officer in uniform will instill in young bike riders the necessity to follow the rules of the road, which are the same for bikes as those for cars.

Additionally safety measures including reflective clothes, and bike lights and reflectors need to be used by cyclists to alert drivers that a bike is sharing the road, and give the driver time to react.

Grant funds were awarded in October and recently approved by the City Council.

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