CHP AIRCRAFT TARGETS SPEEDERS ON HIGHWAY 14.
Many motorists who speed along Southland freeways instinctively keep an eye on the rear-view mirror for police cruisers.
But it wouldn't have helped 244 drivers who were cited over the weekend after being clocked by a California Highway Patrol airplane flying over the Antelope Valley Freeway.
Saturday and Sunday the CHP started using a single-engine Cessna to nab speeders on a six-mile stretch of the 14 Freeway, and there are plans to eventually do the same on a portion of the Golden State Freeway.
What the roadways have in common are long downhill grades that are tempting to hurried commuters, long-distance truckers and weekend travelers.
Officers at the CHP's Newhall station, alarmed by a sharp jump in accidents since the 55 mph speed limit was raised to 65 mph in January, began an enforcement over the weekend that nabbed 125 lead-footed drivers in about six hours Saturday. The effort continued Sunday, with 119 tickets issued in the same 8 a.m.-2 p.m. period.
Flying 700 feet above the 14 Freeway, CHP Officer Roland Barry spotted the speeders and then directed fellow officers on the ground, providing descriptions of each auto's make, model and color. Officers then pulled over the vehicles and ticketed the drivers.
The weekend enforcement focused on the southbound freeway between Red Rover Mine Road and Agua Dulce Canyon Road, said Officer Doug Sweeney of the CHP's Newhall station.
The air patrol was prompted by motorist complaints, CHP officer observations and a set of statistics: through early April there were 156 accidents on the 14 Freeway from Newhall to Acton, injuring 74 people and killing three. During the same period in 1995, there were 101 accidents, with 60 injuries and one fatality.
CHP Sgt. Rick Sirovy, also of the Newhall station, said officers ticketed a cross-section of drivers in a variety of vehicles.
``In general, the speed was getting out of control. It didn't really matter what type of car or (the driver's) age or gender,'' Sirovy said. ``Everybody is just driving too fast on that stretch of road and that's why it was targeted.''
Daily commuters account for most of the traffic on the 14 Freeway, Sirovy said.
Sweeney, who organized the weekend enforcement - Los Angeles County's first such airplane patrol in two years - said the long downhill grade in the southbound lanes, coupled with the widening of the road from two lanes to three, are the main factors influencing the speed.
Using white and yellow marks painted on the freeway shoulder at one-mile intervals and a chart that translates seconds traveled in a mile to speed, pilots can clock speeders. The air patrols will run intermittently at varying days and times of the week.
Sweeney said a stretch of Interstate 5, from Templin Highway north of Castaic to Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia, will be the next enforcement area. Again, the southbound lanes are a long downhill grade that turns into a race track of truckers and travelers.
``There are less commuters and far more commercial vehicles on the I-5. You have people coming at high speeds and not noticing a far slower-moving truck up ahead,'' Sirovy said. ``People make lane changes in front of these big rigs, causing them to lock up their brakes and jackknife.''