In a city with a constant flow of both incoming student populations and traffic, the Tempe Police Department is developing efforts to make streets safer for cars, bicycles and pedestrians with two new grants.
The funding, which totals up to more than $65,000, will go toward Selective Traffic Enforcement and enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety enforcement. The money came from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Greg Bacon, a detective in the media relations unit of Tempe PD said the funding will allow officers to spend more time working with Tempe residents to cooperatively create a safer city.
“Our overarching goal is to reduce harm and part of that comes from education,” Bacon said.
Bacon said the Tempe population is an interesting one because of the constant influx of ASU students who may be coming from states or cities with different traffic laws.
“One example of this is our distracted driving rules,” Bacon said. “We can make a traffic stop for distracted driving — that’s something we can and do crack down on.”
The grants will be used to pay the officers who work on off days to educate and enforce traffic laws that relate to the grants.
Arizona has seen a rise in pedestrian deaths in the last few years, something Bacon said he hopes will decrease with the efforts made possible by the grants.
Deborah Salon, an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, said changing the infrastructure of transportation layouts could also increase traffic safety.
“Educating people about the rules may be less effective than making big changes to the streets themselves, but those big changes take a lot of time,” Salon said.
She said some populated areas in Arizona have wide streets and high speed limits, which can lead to recklessness on the road. She also said a lack of convenience in crossing the road legally can encourage pedestrians to jaywalk.
Tempe officials have seen these trends and partnered with Vision Zero, a traffic safety policy that aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities to zero.
Bacon said members of Tempe PD hope their expanded enforcement and education on traffic safety will further help support the goals of Vision Zero.
“We want to eliminate, not reduce, traffic fatality,” Bacon said. “We can accomplish that through voluntary compliance with traffic laws.”
He also said even though the grants will be used for education, individual officers can use their discretion on whether or not to issue tickets to violators.
Though Bacon hopes education will help eliminate traffic fatalities, not all Tempe residents are convinced.
Adrian Dennis, a junior film major who lives in Tempe, said the funding could be better used elsewhere.
“When it comes to issues like jaywalking, I don’t think that’s something Tempe police should be receiving money to crack down on,” Dennis said. “People should be made aware of the laws but this feels like a very authoritarian way to do that.”
He said public displays of the laws could offer a more convenient and less intrusive way of informing Tempe residents of traffic laws.
However, Dennis and Bacon agree on one thing: an informed public is a safer one.
“We ask that people take that extra look, bicyclists go with the flow of traffic, drivers go the speed limit and pedestrians cross when permitted,” Bacon said. “If everyone does their part we can make the streets much safer.”