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Traffic (un)Enforcement

The California Highway Patrol is responsible for traffic enforcement in unincorporated areas throughout California. That's another way of saying that 5 million Californians live where traffic laws are rarely enforced:  in their state's unincorporated communities.

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If traffic laws are not being enforced in your unincorporated community, report the problem to the CHP's non-emergency number. Then go back to bed.

Do you drive an unlicensed vehicle, run stop signs, ignore the speed limit, zip past school buses that are unloading children, park in red zones, or park in the center left turn lane?  Those things are violations of the California Motor Vehicle Code, for which you can be ticketed. But fear not if you do so in an unincorporated area, because the CHP isn't up to the job.

This is not to say the CHP is to blame. You see, they have a workload that is far above their funding level. The CHP is facing a serious staffing shortage, which has, according to CHP's internal studies, gotten worse over nearly 40 years. Meanwhile, the population and the number of licensed drivers has grown disproportionately within the State and continues to expand. This situation means that, even if traffic-related enforcement activities stay constant, motorists and passengers will be at increased risk over a period of time, because the level of enforcement activities does not increase proportionately with the number of drivers and vehicle miles driven. Making matters worse, in recent years the CHP has taken on additional responsibilities, like protection of the Capitol and state elected officials. The Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to the CHP's staff level challenges by disrupting the training of new CHP officers. The CHP is once again begging the Legislature to provide money for adequate staffing. Ah, but the Legislature and the Governor say money is tight, so no can do. Since unincorporated communities are at the wrong end of the food chain, their traffic enforcement deficiencies continue to worsen.

If the state wants to fix this problem, it has two choices: 1) defy 40 years of tradition and spend a lot more money on the CHP or 2) allow new cities to form such that traffic enforcement will be handled by the local municipality, thereby relieving the CHP of the burden.

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