Clovis police officer Robert Denney wades through mid-afternoon traffic on Prince Street on Tuesday as part of a operation to ticket motorists for blocking intersections. CNJ staff photo: Rick White.
By Darrell Todd Maurina
Even with uniformed police officers in full view Thursday afternoon, motorists continued to speed, run red lights, and block the intersection of Commerce Way and Prince Street, according to Lt. Ron Hutchinson of the Clovis Police Department
The result — 99 citations and one arrest in a single four-hour period.
“We get lots and lots of complaints that (drivers) will wait two, three or even four cycles of lights that pass because the people on Prince just won’t let them in,” Hutchinson said. “We’re dealing with a specific problem — the danger to the community as far as traffic violations go.”
Officer Robert Denney said the intersection was rated as the third-worst in eastern New Mexico for crashes last year and is either the fifth- or sixth-worst in the state. That means Clovis drivers face traffic conditions on North Prince between Commerce and 14th Street that are rarely seen even in the state’s largest cities.
“There are very few intersections in Albuquerque that have more crashes than we do,” Hutchinson said. “If people know we’re going to be writing citations, maybe they’ll start obeying the law.”
As Hutchinson and other officers watched, a northbound semi truck crossed the intersection of Commerce and Prince and stopped behind traffic waiting for the light at 14th Street. At 53 feet, the semi completely blocked the intersection of Commerce. Traffic cleared in a few minutes, but as the driver started northward, officers pulled the truck over and ticketed the driver for blocking the intersection — a common citation issued Tuesday afternoon.
Other common violations cited were failure to use seat belts and failure to use child restraints, but those weren’t the only citations issued.
“Two of our officers raced off after two motorcycles that had to be going 60 mph at least,” Hutchinson said. “For motorcycles to run at that rate of speed is just foolish.”
The one arrest was for concealing identity — a driver refused to give police his name and officers at the scene said they still don’t know why he refused or who he is — but a second driver came close to being arrested when he got out of his car and threatened to attack a police officer.
“We told him to get back in his car and told him that if he didn’t comply, he would be getting in a lot more trouble than a citation,” Hutchinson said. “He got back in his car and did what he was told.”
Capt. Dan Blair came out to observe the officers on duty and said he hoped the enforcement program will send a message to the public.
“(This operation) is a benefit to the public; we’re here to reduce crashes,” Blair said. “Crashes cost millions of dollars a year, and most of them are preventable by simply following the traffic laws.”
Hutchinson said Tuesday won’t be the last enforcement operation. More are scheduled for later this week, and additional operations will be held later in an attempt to reduce traffic problems.
Capt. Dan Blair said there are three main reasons for crashes near Prince and Commerce, and avoiding unsafe driving habits can stop most of the crashes.
According to Blair:
• 1. You cannot stop in the middle of an intersection. You cannot enter any intersection unless it is clear and you can proceed to the other side of it and make it completely through the intersection.
• 2. Do not run lights.
• 3. New Mexico law doesn’t say you can’t make a left-hand turn into a business, but if you are interrupting traffic by turning left into a business (on North Prince), you can cause a crash behind you. We also do get a lot of people turning left into a business and getting hit.