Gilbert police plan to stop far more drivers over the next three months than they do now.
Their focus will be on preventing wrecks caused by distracted driving, like the death of Chandler police Officer Bryant Holmes, who was on his way to work in October when a distracted driver in Gilbert ran a red light and slammed into Holmes' motorcycle, killing him.
Patrol officers have a goal of increasing traffic stops by 20 percent throughout the town during the enforcement period, but Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn said his REAL objective is to change driver behavior.
Dorn said he expects officers will initially issue more warnings than tickets: Historically, 43 percent of traffic stops lead to citations.
The ramped-up enforcement campaign runs from July through September and police administrators plan to evaluate its success afterward to see if the effort should continue.
The crackdown runs in tandem with a public-safety campaign sponsored by the town with the slogan: Speed Down The campaign includes two high-enforcement zones along the San-Tan Freeway corridor between Val Vista and Williams Field Roads, and along the Val Vista corridor between Baseline and Elliot Roads, where traffic officers will target obvious signs of distracted driving and other violations.
Two LED signs in the high enforcement zones flash messages with the slogan. Dorn suggested the integrated campaign after making the next-of-kin notification when Holmes died and noting a sharp increase in traffic fatalities.
While the statistics are miniscule compared to other municipalities, Gilbert has recorded 10 fatalities so far this year compared to seven all of last year, which is about the town's usual number.
The big message needed to get out is: “This is a problem we need to work on together.” The best solution, Dorn said, is for people to voluntarily police themselves while they're behind the wheel by avoiding cell phones and other distractions, including eating and applying make up or sun screen.
"If we can do that, we can have a significant impact on preventing collisions," Dorn said. Gilbert Mayor John Lewis said Gilbert residents are proud of their town's ranking as the second safest city nationally with more than 100,000 people.
He said he is hopeful that they will realize that all the police department is attempting to do is to protect them. "We want to keep it that way.
We want to prevent these fatal collisions,'' Lewis said. Holmes, 34, left behind his widow, Stephanie, and four children less than 10 years old.
The other driver, 20-year-old Austin Beasley, paid a civil traffic fine of $1,014 for causing an accident resulting in serious injury or death.
Three words here: HOORAY FOR GILBERT!!!!! When will Phoenix follow suit? Better yet, when will Arizona ban smartphones while driving? Let's hope sooner than later!