By Victoria Metcalf
The calendar might still indicate June, but Plumas County is screaming summertime!
The Memorial Day Weekend officially kicked it off. This year especially, the highways were busy with families going here and there — campers, RVs, vehicles loaded with bicycles—you name it as people were anxious to throw off the COVID-19 blues and grab a slice of freedom.
And Memorial Day Weekend cooperated this year. Instead of the cloudy skies and rain, which is often the case, Mother Nature chose to do all that a week earlier than normal. This year as residents and vacationers alike set up camp, chose a spot at a favorite lake or stream, set out on a hiking or biking trail, the weather was hot.
California Highway Patrol officer Reese McAllister, stationed with the Quincy Area CHP, said this year’s big target was trying to bring down the number of driving-involved traffic deaths. While it didn’t work statewide—McAllister was doing his part in taking a special overtime detail enforcing driving under the influence.
This year the state CHP indicated that traffic related deaths were up 13 percent over the previous year’s Memorial Day Weekend. Thirty-five were killed in crashes in California and 979 DUI arrests were made.
I met up with McAllister at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 28 for a traditional ride-along. From Quincy to beyond Lee Summit, he made six stops for various offenses in three hours. On most ride-alongs two stops during a much longer period wouldn’t net that number.
Most stops were for drivers simply driving too fast. One young man in a new car hit the radar doing 81 in a 55-mph area. And he earned himself a ticket.
The driver for a car dealership in Redding got stopped for excessive speed. He was the first stop of McAllister’s afternoon. “Don’t spoil my day,” is what the officer repeated the driver requested. He too was traveling well over the speed limit. And here’s your ticket. In reality, it wasn’t the officer who interfered with the driver returning home, probably to start his own holiday plans. He was just in too much of a hurry and was hitting the gas peddle a little too hard.
While the majority of McAllister’s stops were for speeding, he did issue a fix-it citation to a family on their way to grandma’s house in Graeagle. The driver needed to do something about the well-outdated sticker on his license plate.
Another driver got stopped for swerving and nearly running into the CHP unit. Evasive action by both drivers prevented a crash.
Quickly making a U-turn in the middle of Highway 70, the officer went to find out what the problem was. It turned out that just as the driver was almost abreast of the CHP unit in the opposite lane, he spilled his soda. McAllister said the evidence, pop and ice all over the man’s lap, was quite evident. He didn’t receive a ticket.
But as McAllister climbed back into his air-conditioned unit, he remembered stopping the same vehicle and driver the previous day for speeding.
And at another point McAllister spotted an older model pickup almost not stopping at the stop sign from the Greenhorn Ranch Road. Whipping back to check on the driver, who looked like he was trying to hide from the officer, it turned out the man was having a bad day. His vehicle wasn’t registered, and his driver’s license had expired among other issues.
Since the driver wasn’t under the influence, McAllister decided to recommend strongly that he go and get his new license and his pickup registered. McAllister said there were three things wrong that would have allowed him to have the vehicle towed.
Realizing the man and his wife probably didn’t have money enough to retrieve their pickup from impound, he gave them a break. No towing, but they were reminded to get everything taken care of. If not a ticket would follow.
As McAllister started his route between Quincy and roughly Camp Layman on Highway 70, he said that by dinnertime, the traffic would decrease significantly. And by the time we stopped for a hamburger it was less than half of what it was just an hour earlier.
It was a good couple of hours out with the CHP. And while we didn’t have any crashes or DUI stops, we did get to go relatively fast to catch up to speeders—something McAllister knows I relish.