2005-04-07 / Front Page

Something new: Spring break license/safety checkpoints

By Sylvie Belmond

By Sylvie Belmond belmond@theacorn.com

While students were out of school for spring break last week, Thousand Oaks police were conducting checkpoints to confirm that motorists had driver’s licenses.

Officers stopped traffic to catch unlicensed drivers and spot people who were driving without seat belts. Cops also monitored a crosswalk to make sure drivers were yielding to pedestrians.

Normally, the deputies patrol school areas to make sure kids are safe, said Sgt. James Kenney. So spring break gave the department an opportunity to use the officers for different purposes.

Last Thursday, authorities set up a checkpoint on Avenida de Los Arboles between Moorpark Road and the 23 Freeway to verify that drivers were licensed. "We checked about 640 cars and ended up citing five people for driving with an expired license or with no license at all," Kenney said.

That same morning an unlicensed driver caused an injury accident at Lynn and Janss roads, he said

After about two hours at the first location, authorities moved the driver’s license checkpoint to Hillcrest Drive and Houston Street. There they stopped about 680 cars and towed 10 to 12 vehicles because drivers weren’t licensed.

"It was kind of frightening—we were surprised that that many people drive without a license," said Kenney. Excuses ranged from "I didn’t have time to renew my license" to "I have to get to work," he said.

Driving without a license is a misdemeanor, a criminal offense for which the courts determine the penalty. To recover a car from the tow yard, a driver must obtain a valid license, said Kenney.

On Tuesday, authorities were working on seat-belt enforcement. They observed vehicles for about four hours and issued 48 citations at about $85 per violation.

"This is kind of a wake-up test, it’s is an opportunity to get people back in the habit," Kenney said.

On Wednesday, making crosswalks safer for pedestrians was the goal of officers. They monitored cars on Thousand Oaks Boulevard near the 24-Hour Fitness gym, checking whether drivers yielded to pedestrians. Police chose one mid-block crosswalk and had three pedestrian volunteers use it. If drivers failed to yield, they were stopped and issued a violation.

"We want to make people aware that there are crosswalks that people use that are not governed by stop lights," said Kenney. The operation resulted in 35 to 40 tickets issued in a four- to six-hour period, he said.

"This enforcement posture is to prevent people from being injured; we don’t go out there to make revenue," said Kenney. "Our purpose is to protect people," he emphasized.

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