State Laws & FundingNewsMeetingsIssuesPublicationsResources & ProgramsAbout UsMembers Only

Calendar Icon Highway Safety Calendar

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign Up for GHSA News

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

2012 GHSA Annual Meeting Awards program cover 2012 Award Descriptions
PDF icon [1.1 MB, 10 pgs.]

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, media, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2012 Winner: California Highway Patrol "Safe on 17" Task Force

All 2012 Highway Safety Award Winners

California Highway Patrol logo

California’s Highway 17 between the cities of Los Gatos and Santa Cruz is notorious for its narrow lanes, lack of shoulders, sharp curves and speeding drivers. Major injury and fatality collisions were all too common: 279 injury collisions and five fatal collisions in 1998 alone. The “Safe on 17” Task Force – led by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) – was formed in 1999 to address high collision rates on this dangerous stretch of road.

In 2011, not a single life was lost on Highway 17, and the “Safe on 17” Task Force achieved the lowest number of fatal and injury collisions on record. Since its founding, the Task Force has seen an amazing 49 percent average reduction in major injury and fatality collisions. This translates to 123 fewer fatality and injury collisions.

The Task Force brings together key stakeholders who implement aggressive strategies in enforcement, engineering, education, and emergency services to prevent collisions and reduce their severity. Members consist of representatives from: the Santa Cruz and San Jose California CHP Areas; California Department of Transportation Districts 4 and 5; Metropolitan Transportation Commission Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (MTC SAFE); Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission Service Authority for Freeways and Emergencies (RTC SAFE); and local legislators, media, and emergency services providers. It meets twice each year to leverage resources and share new ideas for continued safety improvements.

A key Task Force element is overtime funding for CHP enforcement, which has resulted in the increased safety, service, and security for motorists. Aggressive drivers are stopped before they cause a crash, disabled motorists are moved to a safer location, and collisions are cleared faster to expedite the flow of traffic and prevent secondary crashes. In addition, Freeway Service Patrol tow drivers assist stranded motorists, remove roadway hazards, and clear non-injury collisions. Engineering accomplishments in 2011 included guard rail improvements; shoulder widening with new guardrail and retaining wall; and median barrier installation, pavement resurfacing, and a drainage system upgrade at the county line.

For its first three years (1999 – 2002), the Task Force was funded by a California of Office of Traffic Safety grant awarded to the CHP. Achievements were so significant that members decided to continue to meet, and now funding is provided by MTC SAFE and RTC SAFE.

This funding provides for approximately 1,200 hours of additional enforcement by the CHP per year, at a cost of $100,000. In addition, CalTrans has spent more than $31 million for safety program improvements and more than $10 million for roadway preservation improvements.

While funding for the “Safe on 17” Task Force has remained static during the last ten years, the Task Force continues to be more successful each year as measured by a consistent, dramatic decrease in collisions. Today, Highway 17 is a safer place for all motorists. The “Safe on 17” Task Force is proud to be the driving force behind the safety improvements and increased enforcement preventing the loss of life on this popular roadway.

To learn more, contact California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Brian Hawkins at 916-843-3003 or