Police patrols drive home a point with intersection enforcement zones

Saturday, July 26, 2008
KALAMAZOO -- There's nothing covert about this police operation.
Large, fluorescent yellow signs announce ``Enforcement Zone'' as uniformed police from several area departments wait for drivers to blow through a red light or make an illegal turn.
``They're out there more to be seen,'' said Lt. Brian Crandall of the Western Michigan University Department of Public Safety, referring to the officers stationed this week in special zones as part of Intersection Enforcement Week.
Still, despite all the warning signs, some drivers can't seem to see the light.
On Thursday, two people were ticketed for red-light violations and three for seat-belt violations and two were arrested on outstanding arrest warrants after being stopped in Kalamazoo County.
Police were back out Friday, this time along Kalamazoo Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo, where they pulled over more drivers for intersection infractions.
Officers from police departments including Kalamazoo, Portage, Kalamazoo Township and WMU and from the Michigan State Police post in Paw Paw have been working together this week at select intersections. They have been stationed along busy stretches of Stadium Drive, Michigan Avenue, and Sprinkle and Drake roads, among others.
``Patrols are being set up at roadways and intersections where there are a large number (of accidents),'' Kalamazoo Township Police Lt. Bryan Ergang said Friday.
Statewide, 28 percent of crashes in 2007 were at intersections, resulting in 288 deaths and 2,319 incapacitating injuries, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.
``The reason for most of those accidents (at intersections) is speed,'' Ergang said.
People speeding through intersections to avoid red lights often make intersection crashes more serious, Crandall said.
Intersection Enforcement Week is designed, in part, to drive home the dangers at intersections in a very visible way, letting the motoring public know police are watching for those who run red lights, fail to yield the right of way, or make illegal turns.
The state's Office of Highway Safety Planning, which funds the program with grants to local agencies, publicizes intersections where officers will be stationed.
``If you don't have the signs out and let people know what you're doing,'' Crandall said, ``they think you're just out writing tickets.''
Kalamazoo County received nearly $130,000 in grants for drunken driving, seat-belt and other special enforcement efforts for this fiscal year, which ends in September.
WMU's Crandall said he believes those efforts have helped, pointing to seat-belt enforcement efforts in recent years. ``There was 50 to 60 percent usage 10 years ago,'' he said. ``Now it's up to 96 percent in Michigan.''

2008 Kalamazoo