Police tout M-59 traffic campaign results

By: Eric Czarnik, Sarah Wojcik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 4, 2015

 Sterling Heights police officer Remie Verougstraete holds a device that monitors driver speed in October

Sterling Heights police officer Remie Verougstraete holds a device that monitors driver speed in October

File photo by Deb Jacques

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A Hall Road monitoring project that combined the efforts of several local police departments in October netted more than 1,300 offenses, according to Sterling Heights police.

According to Sterling Heights Police Lt. Dave Smith, a collective police effort to patrol and enforce traffic laws on M-59/Hall Road throughout Macomb County was helpful in reducing unlawful driving habits. Prior to setting up the enforcement zone, police had received complaints about speeding, tailgating and more along the thoroughfare.

“I think by the end of the enforcement, we were starting to see that there was more compliance with the traffic laws and stuff,” Smith said. “By the end of the (campaign), it looked like it had a positive effect.”

Police said they made 1,343 citations during the campaign, which lasted throughout the month of October. Citations included running red lights, distracted driving and speeding between 15 and 20 mph over the speed limit, police said.

Smith said the goal wasn’t to suddenly pounce upon or trick people, and visible radar trailers and prior announcements of the enforcement campaign were designed to warn people in advance that Hall Road would be monitored.

Besides Sterling Heights police, law enforcement personnel from Chesterfield Township, Clinton Township, Shelby Township, Utica and the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office also played roles in the effort.

Police said they wanted to be proactive and launch the initiative before Black Friday, when congestion from holiday shopping at the many retailers along Hall Road can fuel frustrations.

“The vast majority of our citations were for speed,” said Lt. Jeff Daniel, who oversees the Shelby Township Police Department’s traffic bureau. “One of our sergeants issued a (citation to a) driver for going 101 mph in a 45 mph zone.”

Daniel said that from what he understood, the driver in question was involved in a drag race with another driver he did not know near Art Van Furniture, located on Hall Road, just east of Schoenherr Road.

He said police have conducted similar traffic enforcement details in the past, but not for some time because of low personnel.

“This time of year we’re seeing a lot of distracted driving and a lot of tailgating, which leads to some of our leading rear-end accidents,” Daniel said.

He said that going into the season of winter storms and bad weather, it is especially important to drive safely and slow down.

“Everybody just needs to be patient,” he said. “Give yourself an extra 10 minutes when you’re going to go somewhere and enjoy the holiday season.”

Daniel said he has never told any of his traffic officers to write tickets to make money. He said he would rather write drivers tickets and hopefully persuade them to drive slower than to call the Fire Department to cut them out of their vehicles.

Utica Police Chief David Faber said his department has seen a definite increase in the number of traffic crashes in the last two years. He attributed almost all of them to Hall Road in some way.

“When this idea came up about getting out there and targeting the speeders and aggressive drivers and such, we thought that was what we needed to do to help some of these traffic crashes,” Faber said.

Utica police, he said, issued tickets and warnings to drivers who were primarily speeding and texting while driving. Some of the traffic stops resulted in arrests for drugs and, in one instance, an illegal possession of a firearm, Faber said.

“We’re not looking to write tickets. We want to spread the awareness to slow down and pay attention,” he said. “Everywhere you go you see the aggressive driving.”

Faber said it does not seem that long ago that Hall Road was just a five-lane road. Now, as a boulevard with four lanes each way, he said he couldn’t imagine what traffic would be like if the road hadn’t been upgraded.

Smith said the exercise strengthened cooperative ties among the various departments.

“Anytime you work together, you’re going to develop relationships, and those are good things going forward,” he said. “We have had good relationships prior to that.”

Smith said it’s hard to know how long the positive effects produced by the campaign may last, though he said police will continue to enforce the law along M-59.

“We hope that it’ll last as long as possible,” he said. “We don’t want to see people get hurt for speeding and breaking the law.”

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Police Department by calling (586) 446-2800.

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