That’s the ticket! City to crack down on traffic violators
Like the tree-lined, rural Grand Avenue of the 1950s, the era of tolerant traffic enforcement in Glenwood Springs is now a thing of the past.
Fed up with red light runners, speeders, tailgaters and generally rude drivers on Grand Avenue and beyond, the Glenwood Springs City Council ordered police chief Terry Wilson to crack down on traffic offenses.
“I think the mayor made it clear to me that he’s ready for people to be afraid to run a red light or speed in this town,” Wilson said.
The crackdown will begin immediately, so Wilson considers his statements fair warning.
“I believe the direction we’ve been given by council is very clear on this,” he said. “They’re tired of people running stop lights and stop signs.
“We have to send a message, and unfortunately the message comes in the format of five copies and press real hard – and it’s going to cost,” Wilson said.
Until now, the Glenwood Springs Police Department’s unwritten policy was to be somewhat lenient on traffic enforcement. Officers gave out more warnings than tickets, Wilson said.
Those days are over.
“It saddens me to say that philosophy isn’t getting it done and has to be adapted. Our policy has to be more black and white, more hard-lined. It’s a shame to have to take that approach, but I think it’s necessary,” Wilson said.
Increased growth has led to congested roadways, which, in turn, lead to impatient drivers. The problem, Wilson said, has become epidemic and it’s time for something to be done.
In addition to stepped-up enforcement, City Council may consider enacting stiffer fines to curtail lawbreakers on city streets.
“There is the potential for a significant increase in penalty,” Wilson said.
At present, the fine for running a red light is $48 in Glenwood Springs. That fine could more than double to $100, he said.
“Very few people are aware of the penalties,” he said. “The deterrent effect isn’t great, but it cuts down on repeat customers. The awareness that fines are doubled might have a deterrent effect.”
Another way to keep drivers in line could be to post signs in certain areas warning drivers that fines are doubled, sort of like a construction zone.
But these are small measures. The larger problem is in people’s attitudes, Wilson said.
“Enforcement is only a piece of the solution,” he said. “Ultimately the solution has to be people driving better. I see a lot of bad attitudes, like pushing.”
“Pushing” is when aggressive tailgaters prod the drivers in front of them to run red lights or speed.
“I don’t know when we’ve come to a point where people think it’s acceptable to run a red light.”
The main thrust of the crackdown – which is open-ended, meaning it could become standard policy for the department – will be to ticket for speeding, running stop signs, running red lights, tailgating and driving through a crosswalk while a person is crossing the street. Officers will also begin to hand out tickets to pedestrians for jaywalking.
“One of the things pedestrians have to realize is they have to follow it, too,” he said of the city’s traffic code.
In an area such as Grand and 8th or Grand and 9th, pedestrians who cross against the “WALK” signs can slow traffic, adding to an already-strained highway system.
“The timing of lights is based on everyone following the rules,” he said. “We’ve got a higher volume of traffic than the infrastructure can handle.”
Wilson, who grew up in the less populated, quieter Glenwood Springs of the past, is sad that the city’s traffic congestion has forced the department to bring down the hammer.
“When I was a little kid, I learned to ride my bike on Grand Avenue. But I would no sooner let my child do that now than launch him off on a rocket,” he said.
To enforce the new traffic enforcement policy, Wilson said his officers will have to be “sneaky and hard-lined.”
“We’re going to bring out extra people and use unmarked cars. Whatever it takes, whatever we can come up with,” he said.
For those who think the new policy is a way to increase revenues in a sluggish economy, Wilson said to think again.
“The role of law enforcement as a profession is not to turn a profit,” he said.
He insists the policy is aimed strictly at reducing accidents, educating drivers and making the city a safer and more enjoyable place to live.
Also, much of the money generated by traffic tickets will go toward the administrative costs of writing reports and the costs of prosecuting the higher number of ticket appeals in municipal court.
“I recognize that enforcement is only a small piece of it,” Wilson said. “We need the compliance of the people who are driving and walking through town.”
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.