California Highway Safety

May 7, 2008 9:18:11 PM PDT
If it's been years since you first started driving in California, you may not know teenagers today don't have to show they can drive on the freeway to get a license, but that may change soon. State leaders have come up with more than 150 changes designed to make driving our roads, safer.

The California Office of Traffic Safety says more than 4,200 people died from motor vehicle crashes in 2006. Various state agencies, including CHP, CalTrans and the DMV, unveiled a new plan on Wednesday to make our roads safer.

"Our goal is to reduce traffic fatalities by 10 percent, by the year 2010," says Chris Murphy, from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Parts of the plan target drivers. They'll need to score higher on the written test to get a license. Right now you only need 80 percent to pass. The behind-the-wheel test will soon get tougher and will include a drive on the freeway.

"It does constitute a change in our operation. It does mean a longer drive test and it is something we need to look at," says George Valverde, the DMV Director.

Most drivers at a local DMV office don't mind the extra hoops in the licensing process, if it improves things.

"You'd think that people are getting their licenses out of Cracker Jack boxes," says Russell Yeargan, a driver.

The plan also addresses aggressive driving and speeding. Traffic agencies will ask the Legislature to introduce a bill that'll allow authorities to impound the dangerous driver's vehicle.

To crackdown even further on drunk driving, hospital staff would be required to notify law enforcement of patients they believe came from a collision involving alcohol.

"Actually, those are all good ideas because there's too many accidents out there," says Christina Duncan, a driver.

The state has already seen marked improvements at intersections where cameras catch red light runners. Some studies show it reduced injury crashes 25-30 percent.

Beverly Hills is about to try a pilot program that similarly takes a picture of the license plate of a car speeding, then a ticket is sent in the mail. If that's successful, that could also end up in the Highway Safety Plan.