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Column: Increased enforcement improves traffic safety

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On March 15, The Republic published a very informative article regarding vehicle crashes in the city limits.

The article explored the top 10 intersections in Columbus for crashes over the past three years. It also discussed the primary reasons for crashes, such as failure to yield and following too closely.

The Columbus Police Department has made traffic safety a top priority under Mayor Kristen Brown’s administration. This includes the safe travel of our motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Our goal, set forth in the community’s Advance Columbus strategic plan, is to improve the safety of our community through proactive law enforcement, including traffic enforcement.

Based on residents’ feedback and our analysis of the city’s crash data, we focused our resources in the high-crash areas and increased traffic stops to reduce the number of impaired and suspended drivers. We are also partnering with our city engineering department to improve the safety of our street designs and conditions.

In 2013, we stopped 10,176 more vehicles than we did in 2012. That’s a 119 percent increase. The results were impressive:

14 percent decrease in crashes on public property (city streets)

25 percent decrease in bicycle/car crashes

29 percent decrease in pedestrian/car crashes

48 percent decrease in impaired driving related crashes

23 percent increase in driving while suspended arrests

In addition, there were no fatal accidents in the city last year. A reduction in vehicle crashes also means fewer injuries and less property damage and insurance claims.

Another byproduct of more traffic enforcement is an increase in drug-related arrests, which skyrocketed by 37 percent in one year. Many of those were initiated by traffic stops. One particular traffic violation netted 2 pounds of methamphetamine and approximately $32,000 in cash.

With all the traffic stops, our arrests for operating while intoxicated (OWI) have dropped by 31 percent over the past two years. Thanks to several partners in this effort, there are fewer intoxicated drivers on the roadways.

The Bartholomew County prosecutor’s office screens OWI arrests on a daily basis to ensure a timely filing of criminal charges. Most of our local bars prominently display the names and phone numbers of cab companies.

One particular bar in Columbus even provides a shuttle service to prevent drunken drivers from getting behind the wheel. When you include the efforts of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police, the results are truly remarkable.

Knowing the high-crash areas of the city and obeying traffic laws are important steps for staying safe in your travels. Fewer intoxicated drivers on the roadways and more enforcement will save lives. The Columbus Police Department takes your safety seriously, and we pledge to continue enforcing traffic laws.

If you notice an area of the city where traffic violations routinely occur or could use some additional enforcement, please call our front desk at 812-376-2600.

Jason Maddix is the Columbus police chief.

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