The Memorial Day weekend typically signifies the start of the summer travel season, but this year is a bit different due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The California Highway Patrol encourages essential travel only, even as the state has begun reopening businesses and services.

For those who chose to travel for the holiday, the CHP recommends checking with the destination county or state for information on local restrictions or direction that may be in place for visitors from outside the area.

With the potential for residents to decide to release their pent-up travel demand this weekend, the agency will conduct its annual Memorial Day Maximum Enforcement Period, in which officers will be on the roads in greater numbers.

The enforcement period begins at 6 p.m. today and continues to 11:59 p.m. Monday.

Special focus this year will be on enforcement of seat belt use, officials said.

During the same period last year, 34 people died in traffic collisions statewide. Of the 21 killed in collisions in the CHP’s jurisdiction, 10 were not wearing seat belts, officials said.

During last year’s enforcement period, the agency also recorded 1,099 arrests by CHP officers for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The past two months under the state’s stay at home order has seen much less traffic on state roads, but CHP officers are finding many more instances of excessive speeding on the open highways.

“The rules still apply, no matter how little traffic there may be,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said. “Obey the speed limit, fasten your seat belt, drive sober, and put down your phone.” 

Motorists are also reminded to protect child passengers by using age-appropriate child safety seats, whether a safety seat or booster seat. The law requires that children under age eight ride in the back seat and that children under age two be secured in a rear-facing child passenger safety seat.

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