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CHP sees surge of speeding Bay Area drivers amid coronavirus shutdown

Sonoma County’s CHP office is asking motorists to slow down after officers stopped and cited several drivers reportedly seen barreling down local highways, a trend repeated across the Bay Area as shelter-in-place orders have emptied once-busy roadways of most traffic, officials said.

Drivers cited by the CHP last weekend included a northbound motorist caught going 85 mph on Highway 101 near Petaluma and a second accused of driving more than 110 mph on the highway near Rohnert Park, according to a weekend post on Twitter by the Santa Rosa CHP office.

In an earlier tweet, the office shared a photograph of a sedan pulled over on Highway 101 south of Cotati with a CHP patrol car parked behind. Dark clouds loomed overhead.

“What is a safe speed in the rain? It’s definitely not 95 mph. Slow down!” the post said.

The posts were just a few examples of recent speeding tickets doled out by local officers, Santa Rosa CHP spokesman Officer David deRutte said.

While calls to the department have dipped by about 34% since coronavirus shelter orders went into effect two weeks ago, officers are seeing no shortage of speeders while out on patrol, deRutte said.

“People are going a little bit too fast with less people out on the road,” deRutte said. “The roads seem wide open but we’re still out there with the same amount of officers working.”

CHP Officer John Franzen, a spokesman for the agency’s Golden Gate Division, which encompasses highways from San Jose to Sonoma County’s northern border, said the problem has been documented across the region.

Officers deployed by the agency in Marin and Solano counties reported seeing a surge of motorists driving near or above 100 mph on local roadways, Franzen said.

Those caught driving at speeds of 100 mph or more are subject to heavy fines and the temporary suspension of their license if a traffic court judge sides with the officer, Franzen said.

“Just on a first-hand basis, our officers are definitely seeing an increase in the number of citations and that’s why you’re seeing a number of offices warning against speeding,” Franzen said, referencing social media posts from other CHP offices across the Bay Area. “It’s a recipe for disaster. Vehicles are just not designed for a 100 mph-?impact crash.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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