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Sheriff's Station stresses holiday safety

Posted: December 2, 2010 5:13 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2010 12:04 a.m.
 

As we enter into the season, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would like to remind all residents to celebrate responsibly and keep safety and the law in mind.

The holiday season, with its celebrations, parties, shopping and traveling to friends and family, puts more motorists in harm's way with the potential for more impaired or distracted drivers.

During the holiday season, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station will conduct special enforcement operations and Driving Under the Influence (D.U.I.) checkpoints with funds provided through a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

These operations and checkpoints are conducted in an effort to reduce tragedies and ensure the safety of our roadways for all. A major component of these checkpoints is to increase awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and to encourage sober designated drivers.

All too often, Santa Clarita motorists are senselessly injured or killed on local roadways by impaired or distracted drivers. In addition to alcohol related accidents, the distraction of cell phones, G.P.S. devices, speeding or hurried motorists rushing during the holidays, and even drivers who are reading or partaking in some other distractions while driving can put other motorists at great risk.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station encourages the public to call the station at (661) 255-1121 to report drunk drivers and be ready to describe the vehicle, its location and direction of travel. The following clues can help motorists detect a drunk driver:

* Weaving/swerving in and out of the lane
* Weaving within the lane quite noticeably
* Travelling at speeds much slower than the flow of traffic
* Braking erratically or stopping in the lane
* Sudden stops for signal lights and slow start once they change
* Remaining at the signal lights once they turn green - asleep at the wheel
* Making wide turns and/or cutting the corner, striking the curb
* Headlights off at night or on high beams
* Driving with the turn signals on
* Straddling the center line of the road or lane lines
* Driver looks intoxicated - starring straight ahead, face close to the windshield, and appears to be quite sleepy
* Aggressive Driving - speed, tailgating and multiple lane changes or unsafe passing

Residents should also follow some simple shopping and holiday safety tips. This time of year can often be hectic, as we run around and try to balance work, family and other holiday responsibilities.

As a result, some criminal opportunists may try to take advantage. When we are busy, the tendency to let our guard down and rush around on our local roadways increases.

Santa Clarita residents should allow extra time while traveling and shopping - plan ahead and try not to wait until the last minute to complete your errands, and be especially aware of your surroundings. We can all try and take a moment this holiday season to slow down, ensure our safety and exercise extra care and caution to avoid falling victim to less thoughtful people or an unfortunate accident.

By following a few holiday safety guidelines, we can all have the peaceful and uneventful holiday experience we envision and deserve.

Top Shopping Safety Tips:

* Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, park in a well-lit area, go with a friend or family member and ensure that you tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return.
* Try to shop when it is less crowded.
* Dress casually and comfortably. Reducing stress during shopping can increase your awareness and safety.
* Avoid wearing expensive jewelry if possible. Save it for your family gathering.
* Don't carry a purse or wallet if possible.
* Always carry your California Driver License or an Identification Card.
* Stay alert to your surroundings and always be ready to provide your location.
* Always carry a cell phone and have local emergency numbers available.
* Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
* Avoid carrying large or bulky items. Ask for help from a trusted source.
* Pay for purchases with a check, credit or debit card when possible.
* Keep cash or wallets in your front pocket.
* Keep you credit account information and phone numbers in a safe place and immediately report any lost, stolen or misused cards.
* Make sure you keep an eye on your credit card when it is being processed and make sure you get it back after the transaction.
* Always keep an eye on your children, or if possible, leave them at home with a responsible adult. If you must bring them, have another adult with you who can watch them while you are conducting a transaction.
* Teach children to stay by you and what to do if they lose site of you.
* Be prepared to provide complete information about your children to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
* Immediately report any suspicious activity.

Getting Money:
Be extra alert while using an ATM machine during the holidays.

* Use them during daylight hours if possible. If not, pick a well lighted and populated area.
* Use machines in populated areas at all times.
* Have a friend or family member with you.
* Protect your personal identification number (PIN).
Make sure it does not appear that the ATM machine has been tampered with.
* Be aware of your surroundings and look around for anyone acting suspiciously at or near the machine before you use it.
* Never help others at the ATM machine.
* Be prepared to make your transaction. Do not stand at the machine figuring out deposits.
* Use a trusted machine and check for card insert areas that look strange or altered before entering your card.

Parking:

* Park in well-lit areas and as close to the establishment as possible.
* Make note of where you parked your vehicle.
* Walk with a friend or relative.
* Ask for a security escort to your car if you feel unsafe or it is a late hour.
* Leave with large "friendly" groups.
* Lock your vehicle.
* Keep all valuables, including items you just purchased, out of view. Use your trunk if possible.
* Have your keys in your hand before you leave the store.
* Try not to return to your car with large purchases, leave them and go back to shopping.

Parties or Social Gatherings:

* Plan carefully and well in advance.
* Celebrate responsibly.
* If you drink alcoholic beverages, always have a designated driver or make arrangements to stay where you are at.
* Avoid celebrating with gunfire at anytime.
* Follow the party safety guidelines outlined in this brochure (PDF file).

In addition to the well-known challenges brought on by the holiday season, many new ones have been brought about by the Internet. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

In a recent Santa Clarita case, two individuals fell victim to a "Craig's List Scam." The victims drove to Santa Clarita from another area to meet with a prospective seller of a camera they found listed at an unbelievable price on Craig's List. When the victims arrived to meet the "seller," they were robbed and all their personal belongings were taken, including the cash they had brought to purchase the camera. The suspects, who wore ski masks, fled in a black BMW with no license plates.

General Safety:

Every year kids, teenagers, and even adults get great gifts like scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, electronic devices, air guns, projectile launchers, go karts, model powered airplanes, battery operated vehicles, and even small toys with plastic wrapping and small pieces.

Although we are excited when we receive these gifts and we want to jump right in and use them, ride them, or play with them, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would like to remind everyone to slow down and take a moment to figure things out. As a result, we are offering a few holiday reminders, safety tips and local laws to consider this holiday:

* Take an extra minute and read the directions or operating instructions thoroughly.
* Take note of required/recommended safety or protective equipment that may not be included with the gift.
* Keep small objects, plastic wrap and other choking hazards away from the little ones and pets.
* Obey all laws, including those pertaining to bicycle riding, skateboarding and off-road motorcycle or ATV use.
* Motorists should slow down and take extra precautions when driving down residential streets as more children will be out trying that new bicycle or toy.
* Keep an eye on children near holiday trees, candles and fireplaces.
* Dispose of wrapping paper and gift boxes in a trash or recycle receptacle. Do not burn them in a fireplace.
* Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could pose a safety hazard for younger children.
* To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don't give very young children a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
* Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
* Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
* Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
* Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots.
* Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of counters, stoves, and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child's exploring hands.

Just a few more laws to remember:

OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLES (OHV):

* There are riding areas in the Santa Clarita Valley for off-highway vehicles (OHV), including off-road motorcycles. Rowher Flats OHV area, Drinkwater Flats, Hungry Valley State Park in Gorman and El Mirage Dry Lake in the Antelope Valley are a few popular sites.
* In the legal OHV riding areas, helmets are required by all ATV riders.
* Unless specifically marked or indicated, children under 16 are prohibited from riding ATVs.
* Additionally, on smaller ATVs that are approved for minors, the ATV (minor) rider must be within 100 feet of an adult who has taken an approved ATV safety course. More info can be obtained at OHV dealerships.
* Spark arrestors are required on all OHVs and the fines can be substantial.
* Any OHV caught riding on a public street can be impounded and the driver cited or arrested with the fines totaling in the thousands.

Visit the following link for additional information on the Off-road Enforcement Program: scvsheriff.com/dept_offroad.asp

MODEL AIRPLANES:

* A person shall not operate model airplanes, boats or crafts except in areas designated for such use, and subject to all rules and regulations contained in such written permission.

SKATEBOARDING:

* While the act of skateboarding is not a crime, trespassing and vandalism are both crimes. Skating is allowed in parts of the city and county areas, but it is not allowed at places such as:
- School campuses
- Public shopping centers (where signs are posted)
- Public roadways (with a grade in excess of three percent)
* Protective equipment is required. All persons skateboarding or roller skating, including in-line skating, at a skateboard park owned or operated by the city of Santa Clarita or the county of Los Angeles shall wear protective equipment including, at a minimum, a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads.

MOTORIZED SCOOTERS AND SKATEBOARDS:

* Riders must be 16 years of age, must wear an approved helmet, must posses a valid driver's license or instruction permit, and the scooters may only be driven on the right side of the roadway on streets with speed limits no more than 25 mph. They may not be driven on sidewalks or on any other street.

STREET LEGAL MOTORCYCLES:

* A driver and any passenger shall wear an approved safety helmet when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.

BICYCLES:

* Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.
* A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a non-motorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet.

These are just a few of the many safety tips, recommendations, reminders, and laws that can help make your holiday season safe and bright. By following these and other precautionary holiday safety guidelines and making responsible choices, we can all have the peaceful and uneventful holiday experience we envision and deserve.

Visit the "Safety Tips" portion of our website for additional information at the following link: scvsheriff.com/prog_tips_holidaysafety.asp

On behalf of all the staff at your Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, Happy Holidays!

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