CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes.
Capt. Cindy Pontes discusses the importance of safe driving Wednesday during the holliday season during a press conference at the Santa Barbara office of the California Highway Patrol (Ray Holguin photo)

The following remarks were delivered Wednesday during a press conference at the Santa Barbara office of the California Highway Patrol.

I am Capt. Cindy Pontes with the California Highway Patrol. Welcome to our 2019 Winter Season press conference.

Today you will hear from local, state, and federal officials, discussing the importance of driving safely on our roadways throughout this holiday season and all year long. We are also joined by our local first responders who work diligently to keep our communities safe each and every day. 

Our mission for this campaign is to educate the motoring public on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the dangers of speeding, and the dangers of driving distracted.

In partnership with our first responder agencies, we will be working diligently through the New Year to promote our life-saving mission. Please understand that we cannot fully accomplish our mission without your help. 

As you celebrate this holiday season and anytime throughout the year, if you chose to drink alcoholic beverages, or use cannabis products, driving is not an option. Always designate a driver who is not impaired.

The average DUI can cost you over $15,000 dollars for a first-time offense. Worse yet, it can cost you or someone else their life. There is no justification for driving DUI!!

Last year during the Christmas “maximum enforcement period,” 47 people were killed in traffic collisions in California, and during the New Year’s maximum enforcement period, 50 people were killed in collisions in California. 

Nearly 50% of the people killed in these collisions were not wearing their seatbelts.  

This equates to 97 people not here this holiday season to celebrate with their families.

These families experienced a lot of firsts over this past year. The first birthday their loved one was not here to celebrate. The first Mother’s Day without their mom, their first Father’s Day without their Dad. The first Thanksgiving without their grandmother.

Now they are facing their first Christmas without their beloved family member. 

We don’t want your families to experience these horrible firsts, due to a preventable traffic collision.

Please make a pledge to your families to drive like you did when you first started driving. We all remember the first time we got to drive by ourselves. Think back to that time.

You obeyed all the traffic laws, you were very careful not to crash your parent’s car. What happened to us?

So many of us have lost that healthy fear of the dangers of driving. We have become complacent, failing to realize we have armed ourselves with a two-ton deadly weapon every time we get behind the wheel.

We need to get back to the days of our youth, when we were so cautious about our driving. We would proudly call our loved ones to let them know we got to our destination safely each time.  

Remember our children are watching our driving behaviors. Let’s not teach them bad habits.

Designate a sober driver, fasten your seatbelts, put the cell phone down, slow down, and concentrate on your driving. 

We thank you for doing your part. Please have a safe and wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Capt. Cindy Pontes heads up the Santa Barbara office of the California Highway Patrol.