WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Caltrans maintenance crew member Tony Romero’s territory is West Sacramento and today is highway “shoulder shopping” day.
“Driving ’round, picking up stuff off the shoulder. That’s the nickname for it: shoulder shopping,” he said.
His shopping list is anything that street cleaners can’t get. And they’ve seen it all, from the usual tires, to cellphones, to ice chests.
“Adult toys,” he says laughing, “you find a lot of that.”
But there’s no playing around on the roads.
With 32 million registered vehicles in California tearing down the state’s highways and byways, the odds are very good that you’ll hit something in the road.
In August 2011, at least 10 drivers ran into chunks of concrete in the middle of the road in Ceres.
In January 2011, a trucker swerved to avoid debris on the freeway, rolling his big rig and slamming into a California Highway Patrol cruiser.
And in 2006, CHP officer David Piquette was killed in Southern California trying to avoid a stove that fell off a truck.
It can happen in the blink of an eye, giving you only a split-second to react. Cleaning up those hazards creates hazards of its own, Romero says.
“The biggest thing out there is to watch your back for errant drivers,” he said. “It only takes a couple of seconds, and you’re done.”
That’s why every shoulder shopper has a blocker, like Max Alvarado.
“My job is to take the hit,” Alvarado said, “protect him, but at the same time, I got to protect the public.”
And it works. Without it, more crew fatalities are guaranteed.
Between 2007 and 2012, drivers collided with something that shouldn’t have been in the highway more than 4,600 times, resulting in 13,000 injuries and 266 deaths.
CHP officers like Adrian Quintero rely on drivers to help make the roads safer.
“The best thing you can do is call 911 immediately, report it to us, and we’ll get out there and get it out of the roadway,” he said.
Also, if you’re behind the wheel, there’s a good way not to tangle with this in the first place.
“Just like they taught us in driver’s ed, to allow yourself a space cushion between you and another vehicle, meaning you’re looking at traffic way ahead,” said Quintero.
If you do hit something, safely work your way to the right shoulder and call 911.
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