Wife of fallen Solano County CHP officer speaking out on distracted driving

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FAIRFIELD (KRON) — Outside the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate Division in Vallejo a wall honoring officers killed in the line of duty.

Officer Kirk Griess’s name is etched onto the memorial.

A distinction his widow Keri appreciates, but also wishes her late husband didn’t have to be associated with.

“It literally took a blink of an eye, and now my children don’t have a father,” Keri Griess said.

Officer Griess was killed as a result of distracted driving last August, when a man in a pick-up truck ran into him on Interstate 80 while he was making a traffic stop in Fairfield.

The driver was charged with reckless driving after an investigation revealed he was speeding and using his phone before the collision.

Officer Griess’ widow is now advocating for AB47.

A bill in the state legislature that would, in addition to a fine, result in a point on a person’s driving record — if cited for distracted driving.

“Right now, if you get pulled over, and you, it’s a $20 fine for being on your cell phone, and that’s minimal,” said Keri Griess. “It should be steeper. I feel like until you hit people in their pocket books and you let them know that you’re serious about it, nothing’s going to change.”

This week, the California Highway Patrol in all nine Bay Area counties is running a distracted driving awareness campaign.

Officers will focus on citing and educating drivers caught breaking the law by using their hands to operate a cellphone behind the wheel.

“At the speeds that people are traveling on freeways, it only takes a couple of seconds for them to look down and then to look back up and see that traffic is stopping, or something has changed lanes in front of them,” said CHP Commander Mark Headrick. “And then the reaction and the stopping distance is reduced, and usually what ends up in a motor vehicle collision.

Headrick says the CHP is trying to change that.

“Bottom line is just put them away,” said Keri Griess. “We’ve lived without them all these years. Pull over, it takes five minutes. You know, make that phone call or until you get home.”

The CHP says this period of increased enforcement will continue through the weekend.

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