Officers stopped droves of drivers along U.S. Highway 95 Monday, cracking down on speeding - one of the most common causes of injury accidents.
Anyone exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph or more was pulled over, turning the stretch of highway just south of Dalton Avenue into something resembling pit row at the local speedway. Failing to stop completely for stop signs, racing red lights and not using turn signals were among the other violations emphasized.
Most of the 100-plus drivers stopped were warned, but not ticketed. Education, not enforcement, was on the agenda Monday.
“It was a major success I think,” said Coeur d’Alene police officer John Kelly. “We’re the talk of the town.”
Nine officers from the Idaho State Police and Coeur d’Alene Police Department’s Community Accident Reduction through Education (C.A.R.E.) unit began lining up at Wilbur Avenue about 8:15 a.m. A swift stream of commuters kept police busy.
Reminders to slow down, pay close attention to other cars, drive at a safe distance behind other cars and buckle up were among the lessons taught.
The four-hour “emphasis patrol” trap snared dozens of drivers. Information on each driver was saved and will remain on record for three years.
Swollen accident rates along the stretch prompted Monday’s patrol. Officers said they have been encountering increasingly impatient and angry drivers.
“They’re getting more frustrated, less patient,” said ISP Sgt. Jay Komosinski.
Coeur d’Alene had the third highest number of accidents caused by “hazardous violations” in the state for the past three years, police said. However, the city’s 62 percent seat belt usage rate ranked second.
“What C.A.R.E. is about is reducing injury accidents,” said Kelly, who used his radar gun to pick out speeders. “That’s how we reduce injury accidents is using those seat belts.”
Slowing down drivers also was a priority. Coeur d’Alene officer Todd Hedge gave a 56-year-old Hayden woman a warning letter even though she was traveling only 5 mph over the 45 mph posted limit.
“She’s like, ‘You got me,”’ Hedge said. “Usually you don’t have them say that.”
Just as Hedge positioned his patrol car for the next speeder, another car cruised by at 53 mph. He stopped the white Plymouth Acclaim’s 18-year-old driver a few blocks later.
Police say their attempt to educate instead of just enforce is slowly having an impact.
Two drivers Hedge stopped Monday previously had been warned about not wearing a seat belt. Both were buckled up Monday.
“Maybe that warning helped him out at least,” Hedge said of the 41-year-old Rathdrum man stopped for driving 51 mph.
Officers promised repeat offenders will be ticketed.
“I guarantee you next time he’ll get a citation,” Hedge said of a driver who had previously been warned. “If the two warnings aren’t going to educate him maybe the citation will.”
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MOST LET OFF Officers issued 65 warnings and 19 tickets to speeders. Tickets for stop sign, red light, turn signal and other violations were given to 19 drivers, while four received warnings.