It’s that lovely time of year again when the birds are singing, bees are stinging and flowers are blooming. If you live in the Inland Empire, you know that our locale has some of the most prolific and beautiful natural blooms along our highways in the country. Though you may be tempted to pull over to snap a picture or just bask in the beauty, keep moving, says the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
That Selfie Could Cost You More Than a Sunburn
CHP officers are blaming increased traffic jams along Interstate 5 in Lake Elsinore and the surrounding areas on drivers slowing down to take photos or pulling over and getting out of their vehicles. The latter action is expressly illegal. “I was stuck in it,” said CHP Officer Mike Lassig, who was off duty and returning through Lake Elsinore from the Los Angeles area last month of an hours-long traffic jam. “I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic due to these people taking pictures of these poppies.”
According to California Motor Vehicle Code 21718, pulling over on the freeway is only legal for specific emergency situations where injury or property damage is imminent. Violating this code is punishable by one point against your driving record and a fine of up to $238.
Stopping on the Highway is Dangerous
The entire reason the shoulder of a highway exists is to provide a safe place for distressed drivers to exit the freeway in the event of an emergency. Without it, car troubles and health emergencies could cause accidents with other drivers. There have been countless instances of people misusing the shoulder, resulting in deadly accidents.
What To Do Instead
If you are compelled to stop and smell the enchanting wildflowers, CHP officers want you to exit the freeway and park somewhere safe before walking toward the flowers. Officer Lassig said, “We want to encourage people to legally exit the freeway and park in a legal space. Then they can walk around and enjoy the poppies.” This might require a little planning ahead, but that is a small price to pay when you consider the safety of other drivers.