In an effort to increase roadway safety by reducing the number of vehicular incidents, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Queen Creek has planned three traffic initiatives for the community. September was the first of a three-month plan for the increased patrol on the roadways.
As of this initiative there will be two more non-consecutive months of increased patrol, which is supported by MCSO as this past month saw decreases in roadway incidents.
“With schools coming off of recess we thought it was a good time to increase safety measures to make sure that people were traveling safely.” MCSO Deputy Ivan Lopez said during an interview.
Deputy Lopez serves as the public information officer for MCSO District 6-Queen Creek. The town contracts its annual public safety services with MCSO.
MCSO received a grant from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to support the effort. In addition to the regularly scheduled deputies who patrol Queen Creek and respond to calls for service, during the month of September, supplemental deputies and assignment adjustments were made to enhance coverage in school zones, construction zones and areas with high traffic.
Throughout September, patrol cars monitored high traffic areas for an additional eight hours a day: four in the morning and four in the evening. Areas monitored include Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads as these have been consistent areas with both heavy traffic and large amounts of construction.
As a result, MCSO saw an 8 percent decrease in roadway incidents.
Additionally Queen Creek Fire and Medical Department saw a slight decrease in the amount of vehicular incidents as well. During the month of September QCFMD responded to 25 incidents compared to 26 the prior month, QCFMD Deputy Fire Chief Vance Gray said during an interview.
Throughout the month speeding and distracted driving were targeted by patrol members. Areas of concern to MCSO were construction zones and school zones. Thanks to the added patrols, MCSO saw lower speeds compared to the month prior.
“We needed to increase enforcement on the roadway. This is because there is a perception that people slow down when they see an officer’s car on the road,” Town Transportation Engineer Mohamed Youssef said during an interview. “In the month of September we did this, and I could see a reduction in the speed that people were driving at.”
Not all of the issues monitored were specifically driver created; one traffic issue pertinent to the Queen Creek area is construction. As a result of expansion Queen Creek has seen more construction and higher levels of traffic.
“Construction is bad for traffic anywhere,” Mr. Youssef said. “People experiencing this traffic feel the pain, but without this pain there is no gain.”
The town of Queen Creek is looking into ways to alleviate traffic in the future as growth in the area continues. This initiative was one step of looking at the future of transportation throughout Queen Creek.
“What we are doing right now is a Transportation Master Plan that looks at the future for the next 20 years,” Mr. Youssef said. “We plan our roadways and movement based on the general service of the roadway to mitigate the future transport issues.”
The Queen Creek Department of Transportation also issues traffic advisories via its website and also offers an electronic traffic advisory subscription service. This is a tool for residents and non-residents in the area to use in order to make the best out of their driving situation.
“I would advise them to look at these and find where the congested areas are and avoid those areas, find a different route,” Mr. Youssef said.
While drivers are not responsible for the congestion created by construction zones there are precautions that can be taken to make for a more less accident prone commute.
“Be more aware of your surroundings when around these high traffic areas,” Deputy Lopez said. “Always make sure to pay attention to the signs on the shoulders.”
A prevalent issue that led to the implementation of these increased safety efforts was distracted driving. This includes anything that takes the attention of the driver away from operating the vehicle safely.
“Pay attention and don’t be a distracted driver,” Deputy Fire Chief Gray said. “Especially don’t text and drive.”
September’s effort has been deemed successful as there was not only a decrease in Queen Creek roadway incidents but also a 20 percent decrease in areas of related crime such as car break-ins, Deputy Lopez said.
“We continue to reduce potential vehicle incidents and increase overall safety in Queen Creek to make this town the safest town possible and a great town to live in.” Deputy Lopez said.
The town of Queen Creek will be hosting an open house 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 to discuss its new Transportation Master Plan. The meeting will take place in the Founders’ Room of Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road. Residents who are unable to attend the meeting can visit www.QueenCreek.org/TMP to view the TMP draft and provide comments. They also can call the project hotline at 480-898-4090.
MCSO District 6-Queen Creek is at 22308 S. Ellsworth Road. In an emergency, call 911. To reach MCSO’s non-emergency number, call 602-876-1011.
Editor’s note: Rilee Robinson is a student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story will fulfill a class assignment.