As California motorists head toward traditionally crowded highways on the Fourth of July holiday, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is urging drivers and passengers to protect themselves by avoiding alcohol, observing speed limits and wearing safety belts. “The summer is in full swing, and everyone wants to squeeze in as much fun as possible,” said Capt. Rick Ward, Commander of the CHP’s Auburn Area office. “Traffic volumes may be high, and unfortunately so is the potential for collisions.” Last year 18 people died in crashes during the 30-hour July Fourth holiday. CHP officers made 568 DUI arrests during that same period. This year every available CHP officer will be on the road during the “Maximum Enforcement Period” which begins at 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, and ends at midnight, Sunday, July 6. Independence Day also marks the first holiday since California’s new “hands free” cell phone laws went into effect July 1. “If they need to make or take a call, drivers must remember to keep their hands on the wheel, not on the phone,” Capt. Ward, said. “And drivers under 18 must refrain from using the cell phone when they’re driving a car.” If you plan to be on the road this weekend, the CHP has several suggestions that can reduce the risk to you and your passengers: • Make sure that only non-drinking drivers get behind the wheel. Alcohol and driving do not mix. • Always buckle up on every trip, no matter how short. Safety belts and safety seats protect you and your passengers from other drivers who may not be as careful. • Leave plenty of time for your trip. If you cannot leave early, don’t become impatient with traffic. Take a break from driving at least once an hour. Share the driving among all those with valid drivers licenses. • Maintain safe speeds for conditions. Even if the posted speed limit is 65 mph or 70 mph, when traffic is heavy or visibility is limited, a lower speed is safer. • Remember the “rules of the road” and drive accordingly. Obeying stop signs and signals, keeping two seconds or more between you and the car ahead, and practicing common courtesy with other drivers helps keep everyone on the road safer. During the holiday weekend, the CHP will be joining forces with statewide traffic safety agencies from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon in C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) enforcement focusing on speed, DUI and safety belt use. “We want people to think safety whenever they get behind the wheel this summer. Common sense and courtesy will go a long way toward achieving that goal, but if a driver chooses to ignore our suggestions, we’ll be there to remind him or her,” Capt. Ward said.