CHP: Drivers taking advantage of nice Sierra weather in risky ways

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(KTXL) -- With a break in the weather, Interstate 80 in the Sierra started looking like a racetrack.

"We had during the Thanksgiving season, and a little bit of the Christmas season, people taking up to six hours to get from Sacramento to Reno," said California Highway Patrol Officer Justin Barnthouse.

On the final Monday of 2019, a 39-year-old man died traveling up the mountain near Blue Canyon.

"We do know he was driving a 2005 Infiniti traveling at reckless speeds on the highway, using all lanes basically like he was slaloming down a ski course. And ended up losing control while traveling in the center median and hit a tree," Officer Barnthouse told FOX40.

The CHP said the unidentified driver was reportedly going more than 100 mph.

Barnthouse said he sees drivers speeding far too often while patrolling the west slope of I-80.

"I generally see 10 to 15 a day of people traveling in excess of 85 miles an hour. And at least once or twice a week we get people traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour," he told FOX40. "If you blow a tire and you're doing 85 miles per hour, well, you're probably going to end up overturning your vehicle. And that's going to really bad for you and your family that are traveling."

He said when drivers pass other cars at an excessive rate of speed, they might startle other drivers and cause them to make an unsafe maneuver.

"And in that put yourself in peril when you're driving that fast because now you're traveling at such a speed that you can't get out of their way," Officer Barnthouse explained.

Officers have also been seeing people pulling over alongside the interstate to play in the snow. At one point over the weekend, they had to deal with 100 pedestrians right next to lanes of speeding traffic.

The New Year's holiday is a maximum enforcement period for the CHP, which means all available officers will be on patrol.

"We're out there looking to slow people down to keep them from driving impaired," Barnthouse told FOX40.

But an even better incentive than avoiding a ticket is remembering the importance of simply getting home safely in 2020.

"It's not worth it. It's not worth it to save 10, 15 minutes," Barnthouse said.

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