We don't think it's a coincidence that concerted efforts last week by the California Highway Patrol to crack down on highway speeders happened around the same time that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced massive plans for cutbacks to deal with the state's growing deficit.

The Barstow-area CHP bragged about handing out 244 speeding citations on Interestate 15 during the crackdown period last Wednesday and Thursday, which calculates to about five tickets per hour over a 48 hour period. They also handed out a whole 23 citations for not wearing seat belts.

These efforts, of course, will have no impact whatsoever on driving habits on Interstate 15. A two-day crackdown in the middle of the week is fairly meaningless with the knowledge that the busiest days for the highway in our area fall on the weekend, when travelers are heading back and forth between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

For that matter, a two-day crackdown on speeding is meaningless when the CHP advertises when it's about to start and also lets us all know when it's ending. It serves as a deterrent for those two days, and then typical driving habits will resume.

However, all those tickets make money for the state, don't they? We're talking about tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Not much in the greater scheme of things, but when this drive coincides with the revelations of the seriousness of our state budget crisis, the subtextual message is clear: The CHP isn't just another state agency - it's a source of revenue. No doubt the message here is, "Don't cut us; we pay for ourselves, and protect public safety too."