by Peter Bodley
There was a sharp drop in the number of motor vehicle accidents in the city of Coon Rapids in 2011 compared with 2010.
According to statistics provided by Coon Rapids Police Capt. John Hattstrom, there were 2,008 accidents reported in 2010; 1,586 last year, a decline of 422.
Hattstrom is not sure of the reason, but thinks it might be attributable to an increase in traffic enforcement by the police department.
This has included ongoing participation by the Coon Rapids Police in the countywide Safe & Sober and Anoka County DWI programs, for which federal grants, via the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, pay for officers’ overtime in saturation enforcement efforts focused on DWI, speeding and seat belt use on high volume roads in the county.
Those campaigns also include an education and awareness program, Hattstrom said.
Indeed, the number of DWI arrests made by Coon Rapids officers in 2011 was also down from 2010, 291 compared with 345, he said.
“We hope we are getting the message out,” Hattstrom said.
Weather might also be a factor, especially the lack of snow and winter driving conditions in the latter part of last year as opposed to the heavy snow that motorists had to deal with in the early months of the year, he said.
According to Hattstrom, officers have noticed that parking lots of bars have had more cars parked after hours.
People have been finding other ways to get home after drinking at a bar, Hattstrom said.
“Bar owners described it as sleepovers for the vehicles,” he said.
But the Coon Rapids Police Department ramped up traffic enforcement in 2011 with a full-time traffic enforcement unit in place most of the year.
“The unit has written a lot of tickets and that has been a deterrent,” Hattstrom said.
According to Hattstrom, 2,641 speeding tickets were written by Coon Rapids officers last year.
Another 2,500 tickets were written for traffic moving violations and other vehicle-related offenses like no insurance, Hattstrom said.
“We hate to write tickets, but we have found that warnings don’t work,” he said.
The hope is that getting a ticket for a traffic violation will encourage the motorist to “make a positive change” in his/her driving behavior, Hattstrom said.
“We hope that the fewer accidents trend continues in 2012,” he said.
“We want to make Coon Rapids a safe place to live and drive.”
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]