By Darrell Todd Maurina
Officer Paul Crowe of the Clovis Police Department said he noticed traffic at the corner of Prince and Commerce was flowing better during the Tuesday lunch hour than it had for some time. Of course, that could have been because of the visible presence of his clearly marked patrol car and his use of a bright, reflective safety vest.
Even so, as he scanned the oncoming cars, he noticed one vehicle — a bright yellow sports car driven by a young woman — and motioned for it to pull over into a parking lot. Crowe asked the driver for her license and registration and returned to his patrol car.
“What’d I do?” asked the confused driver.
“The reason I pulled you over is you are obeying the law,” Crowe said to the woman. “You’re wearing your seat belt, you’ve got your license and registration, you’re driving safely, you’re doing everything right.”
And then Crowe handed her a ticket — not one citing her a fine, but rather a ticket allowing her to receive a free McDonald’s Extra Value Meal.
The worried expression on driver Christina Dryden’s face quickly changed to a smile.
“I like this pullover!” said Dryden.
Dryden said she came to Cannon Air Force Base with her husband, doesn’t know all the details of New Mexico law, and was worried that she’d violated a New Mexico law without realizing it.
“It makes me nervous to get pulled over by police,” Dryden said. “I was talking on my cell phone and I wasn’t sure it was allowed here.”
Dryden was one of about 40 people to get a special reward from the Clovis Police Department that afternoon — one designed not to punish bad behavior at the city’s most dangerous intersection but rather to encourage safe driving habits. For nearly an hour, Crowe stood shivering in the cold weather looking for safe motorists he could reward for buckling up themselves and their children and otherwise practicing safe driving.
In each case, Crowe explained the dangers of the intersection and told the motorists why it’s important to wear seat belts and not to try to enter an intersection unless they can get completely through to the other side.
“This is fun,” Crowe said. “It’s fun going out and catching bad guys, but it’s also fun going out and dealing with people who obey the laws in the normal everyday walk of life.”
The tickets didn’t cost the city anything; the local McDonald’s management in Clovis donated them. And Crowe said he chose to target seatbelt use by children due to the amount of harm that can be done to a child without a seatbelt.
“The reason I feel so strongly is kids don’t have a choice — it’s up to the parents,” Crowe said. “An unrestrained child is so subject to injuries.”
Even as Crowe was handing out his good driving rewards on the south side of the intersection, other officers from the Clovis Police Department had to handle a car crash a block away on the north side.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the city of Clovis needs to work on cleaning up its driving habits,” Crowe said. “The majority of our accidents are just-not-paying-attention crashes. I don’t call them accidents — accidents are something you can’t prevent. Most of these you can prevent, just by paying attention and following the law.”