Labor Day patrols increase on I-15 from California to Utah, specific violations to be targeted

Northbound Interstate 15, Clark County, Nevada, Nov. 3, 2015 | Photo by Famartin/Creative Commons; composite St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Motorists traveling between Utah and California Labor Day weekend can expect extra patrols along Interstate 15 as law enforcement agencies join forces with vigilance in some areas and increase patrols in others with their stated goals of reducing fatalities and ensuring public safety.

Nevada Highway Patrol and Las Vegas Metro Police motorcycles, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2015 | Photo by Cami Cox Jim, St. George News
This 2015 file photo shows the tail ends of a Las Vegas Metro Police and Nevada Highway Patrol motorcycle parked in St. George on a stopover during a motor school training endurance ride, St. George, Utah, May 21, 2015 | Photo by Cami Cox  Jim, St. George News

Between California and Las Vegas, Nevada, the stretch of heavily traveled I-15 will see troopers and officers focusing on speed violations, the move over law, distracted driving, commercial enforcement and seat belt enforcement, according to a media advisory issued by California Highway Patrol .

Move over laws vary slightly between states but generally require motorists to slow down and, if safe and possible to do so, vacate the lane closest to any stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway maintenance vehicle displaying flashing lights.

Seat belt laws vary more significantly from state to state. According to AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws, California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah all require drivers to wear seat belts.

In California, Nevada and Utah, the law specifies age ranges for those required to wear seat belts. In California, the law applies to passengers 16 and older; in Nevada, to passengers 6 and older (over 60 pounds in weight); and in Utah, to passengers who are either 8 and older or taller than 4 feet, 8 inches. Arizona’s passenger seat belt law only applies to front seat passengers, 16 and older. Breaking the seat belt laws are standard offenses in California and Utah and secondary offenses in Nevada and Arizona.

Distracted driving laws pertaining to the use of various electronic and wireless devices while driving are even more diverse depending upon what state you are driving in. Summarizing the particulars given in the AAA Digest, the following restrictions apply while driving in the states specified:

  • Utah prohibits the use of hand-held wireless communications device for text messaging or e-mail communication and prohibits drivers under 18 from using a wireless telephone.
  • California prohibits all manner of texting (both reading and writing). It also prohibits cell phone use unless it is in hands-free mode. A further and detailed prohibition applies to 18-year-olds, who essentially may not use any electronic devices including a variety of messaging and computer devices.
  • Nevada prohibits texting and handheld cell phone use.
  • Arizona’s prohibitions vary by region. In Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tuscon, texting is prohibited; in Coconino County, handheld cell phone use is prohibited.

The California Highway Patrol estimates an average of 45,000 vehicles enter Nevada on the Interstate 15 corridor from California daily, translating to more than 16 million annually. This is the third time the participating agencies have joined forces to patrol the stretch from California to Las Vegas. They include California Highway Patrol, which is hosting the event, Las Vegas Metropolitan and Henderson police departments and Nevada Highway Patrol.

“With the collaborative efforts of the agencies,” the California Highway Patrol news release stated, “we have managed to reduce the number of traffic collisions in this area through enforcement and education.”

Nevada Highway Patrol statewide is focusing on impaired driving. Its campaign began Wednesday and continues with increased patrols statewide through Sept. 12, boosting enforcement efforts to keep impaired drivers off the streets.

“Impaired drivers have consistently been the most common cause of motor vehicle crashes resulting in injuries and deaths in Nevada,” Trooper Chelsea Stuenkel said in a news release, “so law enforcement officers statewide will be working to reduce the number of impaired drivers and save lives.”

Referring to impaired driving as a serious safety epidemic in Nevada, Stuenkel noted that it is one of the deadliest and most often committed but preventable of crimes.

“A bad day at work is better than a good day behind bars,” she said. “We want drivers to enjoy their long weekend by designating a sober driver and not driving impaired.”

The Nevada Highway Patrol has these tips for drivers:

  • Designate a sober driver before drinking.
  • Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation if impaired.
  • Take advantage of local sober ride programs.
  • Call 911 if a drunk driver is spotted on the road.
  • Take the keys or assist in making other arrangements for someone who is about to drive while impaired.

Utah Highway Patrol has made 230 overtime shifts statewide available to troopers who want to work the holiday weekend, UHP Lt. Steve Esplin said. In Iron County, there are about nine or 10 troopers taking advantage of the overtime shifts, he said, In Washington County, it’s about the same, with maybe as many as 15 accounting for increased patrols.

Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, March 26, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
This 2014 file photos shows smooth sailing on Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, March 26, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

UHP Sgt. Jake Hicks, whose territory includes Washington County, said they will be watching for impaired and aggressive drivers, speeding and seat belt violations.

“We strongly encourage people to drive sober and alert, wear seat belts, watch their speed and following distance,” Hicks said.

UHP will not be conducting sobriety checkpoints in Iron County, Esplin said. He did not have information concerning other law enforcement agencies or other areas patrolled by UHP.

“We expect travel to be normal for Labor Day weekend, nothing out of the ordinary,” he said, “but obviously the roads are going to be heavy with traffic as always.”

Arizona’s stretch of I-15  through the Virgin River Gorge is not expected to see any major backups or delays customary in recent years due to construction. Paving on the last of 2016 projects was completed Tuesday, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John T. Bottoms said. No more projects are slated until July 2018 when replacement of Bridge No. 1, where I-15 crosses the Virgin River at milepost 8, is to commence.

“We are going to revel in the fact that there is no construction this weekend,” he said.

Arizona DPS will have extra highway patrol officers on I-15 Friday, Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend.

“Just because we expect increased traffic,” Bottoms said of the increased patrols, “as people leave Nevada to go to cabins in Utah and people leave Utah to go to the beaches in California.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic  @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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  • DB September 1, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Sounds as though the laws between states have gotten rather complicated! How ’bout I just strap ‘Junior’ into his seat in the back, turn off the phone, put my seat belt on, turn on cruise control, set it to the speed limit (or so) and turn the ipod on? I’m going to Cali on Labor Day, wish me luck! Don’t forget, no fresh fruit, meat or vegetables allowed in CA. 🙂

  • .... September 1, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Well with people like Bob out there. this is a good idea

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