MHP out in force on U.S. Highway 93
Posted on April 16
By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian
LOLO - Stacy Cozby can tell how fast you’re going just by watching your car approach her Montana Highway Patrol cruiser.
“I’m usually within five miles an hour,” she said. “Most troopers are pretty good at it.”
Of course, she’s got radar to back her up with an exact number.
Both means of detection were going full bore Wednesday on U.S. Highway 93 south of Missoula, as Cozby worked with four other troopers on a traffic enforcement detail designed to reduce wrecks.
The detail is a project of the state Department of Transportation and the Montana Highway Patrol, which have teamed up in an effort to make the state’s most dangerous highways less so.
The plan involves intense patrols on particular stretches of highway over two-week periods. What that means is a whole bunch of tickets get written as troopers try to slow down drivers.
“If you don’t like writing tickets, this isn’t the job for you,” said patrol Sgt. Pete Richardson, who heads the task force. “But I would say by the time we’ve been there a while, you do see people driving more carefully.”
The program started at the first of the year, so it’s still too early to tell if the effort will have long-term success.
“Right now, we don’t know for sure if this will change people’s behavior long term,” Richardson said. “That’s something we’ll have to wait and see. But even if we change behavior in the short term and that results in one less crash, that’s a good thing.”
The so-called Strategic Traffic Enforcement Team consists of Richardson and five troopers, although the team is down one trooper right now.
Richardson said the Department of Transportation developed a list of highway stretches with the most accidents resulting in injuries or death. The team rotates through those areas, based on the time of year when each highway is at its most dangerous. The timing is detailed, down to the time of day when most wrecks occur.
Because Highway 93 is a commuter highway, the team is working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. over the next week.
On Wednesday morning, it was hard to travel more than a couple of miles without seeing a trooper with a motorist pulled over. But the drivers aren’t all getting tickets.
“I’d say it’s probably about 50-50 with me,” said Cozby, who hosted a reporter and photographer for a few hours. “On this team, part of what we’re doing is educating people, so I definitely hand out my share of warnings.”
For more information, read Thursday's Missoulian or go to Missoulian.com.