Police Chief cites driver education, participation in enforcement campaigns and less traffic

Driver education, participation in enforcement campaigns and less traffic are among the factors that Camdenton’s police chief says has contributed to the decrease in city traffic accidents.
Chief Laura Wright said the accident statistics have steadily declined in Camdenton for three years, coinciding with the statewide decrease in motor vehicle accidents and fatalities.
“We have come a long way over the last three years - 64 fewer crashes,” she said. “This is an accomplishment our department is very proud of.”
Wright said the department has set specific goals and focused more on community policing.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques.

Partnering with others
Wright said ways the department facilitates this community policing is, in part, through cooperative efforts with the Missouri Department of Transportation and Missouri Highway Patrol.
The organizations will lend the city digital speed or message signs for a period of weeks to help inform and educate drivers, she said.
National campaigns are often helpful in educating because drivers might see a commercial on TV about it.
It’s all about reminding people they need to be safe out on the road, she said, not just about writing tickets.

Enforcement procedures
“Traffic enforcement is up when crashes are up; it’s down when crashes are down,” she said, adding that the majority of tickets are written for blatant and hazardous moving violations.
During the summer, the department implements the program “Operation Safeway,” where two officers will patrol the city for two days looking only for minor violations that are likely contributers to road rage.
“We look for the violations like cutting someone off or turning without a signal,” she said. “These things can often anger other drivers.”

Student education
Efforts in the high school are also key to prevention, she said.
The school resource officers visit health classes to teach them about safe driving. They also put on a docudrama every other year, Wright said, providing a mock drinking-and-driving incident.
“It’s made to look like a real accident with victims; beer bottles are set out to show that it’s alcohol-related; and law enforcement, fire, ambulance and a hearse are there to show what an accident scene is really like.”
Wright said she hopes the impact will show students that they’re not indestructible and it could happen to them.

Traffic diversion
Another key to less crashes, Wright said, is less traffic.
When the new expressway opened up in June, traffic was diverted away from the city. Wright said this was another way their partnership with MoDOT has paid off.
“MoDOT saw that there was a large volume of traffic coming through and has worked with local agencies to promote safety.”

Evaluating oneself
Write said she wants motorists to evaluate their own driving habits. The statistics show three main reasons for accidents and cause for 69 percent of the accidents in 2009 - inattention, following too close and failure to yield.
“People are eating, on their cell phone or even watching TV,” she said. “The next time you’re in your car, just look at the people around you and see how many are just not paying attention.”
Keeping a safe distance behind other vehicles and defensive driving are also important, she said, as not everyone around you will be driving cautiously.
Wright also said she encourages people to come take the department’s aggressive driving survey to find out what habits they might have that contributes to road rage.

The trends
Accidents year to date
2007 - 240
2008 - 213
2009 - 200
No. 1 location for most accidents - E Hwy 54   
2007 - 76   
2008 - 82
2009 - 82
Peak times for accidents
2007 - Noon to 2 p.m.
2008 - Noon to 2 p.m.
2009 - 2 to 4 p.m.
No. 1 cause- Inattention
2007 - 43.8 percent
2008 - 28.2 percent
2009 - 36.5 percent

Contact this reporter at trysta.eakin@lakemediaonline.com