CHP officers out in full force for Christmas

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(KTXL) -- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are some of the most dangerous days of the year out on the road because of an increase in drunken drivers.

That’s why the California Highway Patrol increased its patrols for the holidays and targeted drivers who were distracted or impaired.

CHP community resource officer Matt Hill started his Christmas Eve by first asking pedestrians who had gotten onto the side of the freeway what they were doing. But soon, Sacramento police asked him to slow traffic on Interstate 5 after a suspect crashed his car on a bridge over the American River.

“He eventually exited the vehicle and then jumped into the American River,” Officer Hill said.

With the right lane closed, he formed a break in traffic, preventing those driving 60 mph from slamming into other cars that had slowed and stopped to merge.

“When you see our lights on and we’re going across all lanes, we’re not impaired,” Hill explained. “We’re running a break because, obviously, there could be a traffic hazard in the roadway.”

The suspect who ran from police clung to the bridge pilon, screaming for help in the frigid waters of the American River.

Eventually, officers dropped him a life jacket but he refused to swim to shore. Officers then boarded a Sacramento Fire boat and pulled him out of the water.

Later, Officer Hill was back on patrol and pulling over a driver for having her headlights off. Dark headlights are often a telltale sign a driver is impaired.

“Obviously, once we make the stop on the vehicle, as we approach and we start talking to the driver, yeah, we’re looking for signs and symptoms of impairment,” Hill told FOX40.

But Hill said officers can’t be everywhere, which is why he encouraged other drivers to call 911 if they see someone driving recklessly.

“Even if you’re driving a vehicle, you know, put it on speaker, put it in your visor, call 911,” Hill said. “An impaired driver could kill somebody.”

The added DUI enforcement also looked for those drivers who were distracted by texting. Officers say looking at a phone can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

“I believe in actually stopping people and educating people,” Hill said. “Informing them of what they did wrong and actually having a conversation with them. And hopefully, by that conversation I have with them, they go on the road and learn from it.”

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