Speeders beware

Star-Tribune staff writer Friday, March 30, 2007

Slow down.

That's what Natrona County law enforcement is asking of drivers.

Starting next month, local authorities plan to target drivers who speed, run lights and related traffic violations.

Stepped-up traffic enforcement will take place during two days in April. On those days, which will be announced next week, seven to nine patrol cars will be devoted to drivers who don't obey traffic laws, Casper police Chief Tom Pagel announced.

"The public needs to be aware of their speed," he said. "They need to slow down. They need to buckle up."

The Casper, Mills and Evansville police departments, Natrona County Sheriff's Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol are participating in the Combined Accident Reduction and Traffic Enforcement task force, which grew out of a January traffic summit held in Casper and concern over the number of car crashes in Natrona County.

In 2005, Natrona County led the state in total crashes -- 2,461 -- for the first time in recent years, said Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Nations. The Casper area led Wyoming cities and towns in fatal, injury and property damage crashes during that period.

Those statistics are "particularly disturbing," Nations said.

The task force plans to focus on several problem areas:

* 12th and 13th streets;

* Poplar Street;

* Second Street;

* Yellowstone Highway;

* Wyoming Boulevard.

Authorities are hoping to shift drivers' attitudes about observing traffic laws. Some drivers aren't concerned about speeding, said Casper Crime Prevention Officer Pete Abrams.

"The perception out there has got to be changed," he said.

The effort won't be limited to April.

"I think you will see it a couple of days a month for the foreseeable future," said Pagel.

The Casper Police Department in May plans to roll out a two-man unit devoted to traffic enforcement. The return of five Casper officers from Iraq this weekend will allow the department to create the new unit without affecting existing patrols.

Reach Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@casperstartribune.net.