The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urge drivers to use extra caution on the roads, avoid distracted driving, and designate a sober driver this holiday season and throughout the year. Taking these steps can reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents involving utility poles that cause injuries or fatalities.
This year alone within PG&E’s North Valley division, there have been 111 cases of vehicles hitting utility poles, causing power outages to more than 33,000 customers. PG&E’s North Valley division includes Butte, Tehama, Glenn and Shasta counties, as well western Plumas County and portions of Lassen and Trinity counties.
“Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable. Unfortunately an estimated 80 percent of traffic accidents involve some form of driver distraction. Everyone plays a part in keeping the roads safe – including PG&E — and as a part of our commitment to the communities we serve, we join with the CHP urging motorists to avoid distractions that can lead to serious, even fatal, accidents,” said Pat Hogan, senior vice president, Electric Transmission and Distribution, PG&E.
According to the CHP, during last year’s New Year’s holiday, there were 27 fatal collisions on California roadways. In addition, CHP officers made more than 920 arrests for driving under the influence during the 78-hour New Year’s Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP).
“Far too many people are killed and injured every year in collisions,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Together, law enforcement and the public can bring an end to these preventable tragedies. Motorists are reminded to avoid distractions, drive at a safe and legal speed, buckle up and always designate a sober driver.”
The CHP will observe the New Year with a MEP from 6:01 p.m. on Friday, December 30, 2016, to 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 2, 2017. All available personnel will be on duty and although the CHP will be focused on impaired drivers, officers will also watch for distracted driving, speeding and seat belts violations, as well as assisting the motoring public.
In addition to fatalities and injuries, more than 1,700 vehicle-caused incidents this year have caused power outages across PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area from Eureka to Bakersfield, impacting nearly 693,000 homes and businesses. These outages can interrupt electric service to important facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights. The average cost for replacing a utility pole damaged in a vehicle-caused incident was more than $10,000 this year.
PG&E is doing its part to reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle accidents, joining other leading companies in prohibiting cell phone use while driving on company time. Employees must pull over to a legal parking spot if they want to take or make a call, check email or text.
“Providing safe and reliable service is a top priority for PG&E, and while we continually make upgrades and investments to enhance the resiliency of the grid, cars that crash into utility poles disrupt hundreds of thousands of customers’ service every year and can down power lines posing a serious safety risk. While it is legal to talk on the phone using a hands-free device in California, we ask our customers to stay off the phone while driving – especially during the busy holiday season – so that together, we can help make the roads safer for everyone,” Hogan added.
If your vehicle comes into contact with a downed power line:
■ Stay inside! The safest place is in your car. The ground around your car may be energized.
■ Honk the horn, roll down your window and yell for help.
■ Warn others to stay away. Anyone who touches the equipment or ground around the vehicle may be injured.
■ Use your mobile phone to call 911.
■ Fire department, police and PG&E workers will tell you when it is safe to get out of the vehicle.
■ If there is a fire and you have to exit a vehicle that has come in contact with downed power lines follow these guidelines:
■ Remove loose items of clothing.
■ Keep your hands at your sides and jump clear of the vehicle, so you are
not touching the car when your feet hit the ground.
■ Keep both feet close together and shuffle away from the vehicle without picking up your feet.