by Jon Thompson, Mayor, City of Coolidge

As the holiday season approaches, I wanted to take time this month to discuss an issue that I feel is very important. Nearly 40,000 people in 2016 died in the U.S. due to motor vehicle-related accidents. The National Safety Council estimates this number is one of the highest in nine years.

The Coolidge Police Department reported 48 vehicle-related injuries in 2016. Sadly, this number has increased this year. Through October, 51 injuries and three fatalities due to vehicle accidents have been reported.

As Mayor, I have worked with our police department to identify ways to help reduce accidents in the city. One of the biggest contributing factors to many of these accidents is the rate of speed. To that end, the police department has posted electronic speed signs along Arizona Boulevard to assist in notifying motorists of their speed. I believe this has had an impact by alerting drivers to slow down, if they’re going over the limit. In addition, we hope to bring more of these signs to school-zone areas. Currently, one is installed on Vah Ki Inn Road, near the Imagine Charter School.

Our City Council has also approved grant funding for a speed enforcement vehicle. We launched this program last year with the help of a grant by the Tohono O’odham Nation. This allowed the city to conduct additional speed enforcement activities. I’m proud to say that this program has been very successful. Since the vehicle was deployed in June, analysis shows 20 speed-related crashes resulted in the injuries of five people from June 1 to Sept. 30, 2017. In comparison to data during the same time last year, the numbers are down significantly. There were 34 speed-related crashes, (41 percent decrease) and 24 speed-related injuries (79 percent decrease).

In addition to speed, I also believe DUI enforcement is a critical piece of lowering traffic- related accidents. Coolidge Police Department received a Governor’s Office of Highway Safety grant to pay for overtime to officers who serve on this detail. One of the benefits of this grant is to help surrounding communities with their enforcement, as well. This assists Coolidge when a DUI operation is taking place here in the city.

Distracted driving has also become an issue in the United States. Although the Coolidge Police Department does not report statistics on this, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says 3,477 lives were lost to distracted driving in 2015. Using a cell phone is one of the most notable among these distractions.

I am continually working with our police department on ways to help keep our roadways safe and make our community a better place. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope you join me in being a cautious and attentive driver this holiday season and throughout the New Year.