The Council Bluffs Police Department is increasing traffic enforcement through Labor Day Weekend.
“This time of year we like to focus on traffic enforcement,” Sgt. Ron Albers said, noting local students returning to class bring an uptick in traffic within the city.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the department teamed with the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Motor Vehicle Enforcement and the Iowa Department of Transportation on a “Move Over” project. Iowa law requires motorists to switch lanes or slow down to a “reasonable speed” — below the speed limit — when passing a law enforcement agent, utility or maintenance crew or civilian vehicle on the side of the road, Albers said. Move over, as it were.
Albers cited U.S. Department of Transportation numbers that indicate around 276 road maintenance workers are hit on a roadway each year in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation events accounted for 76% of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries during from 2011 to 2017, the most recent years for available data. In 60% of those incidents, the worker was struck by a vehicle in the work zone.
According to the National Institute of Justice, between 2008 and 2017, 554 law enforcement officers died in traffic-related events, which “includes on-duty car and motorcycle crashes and officers struck while outside their vehicles.”
Albers noted that within the last there have been two instances of drivers hitting a cruiser parked on the side of the road, one an Iowa State Patrol vehicle and the other a Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
In the “Move Over” project, the local law enforcement agencies set up on I-29 northbound south of Council Bluffs on Wednesday, with a DOT vehicle on the side of the road, flashers on. The DOT also posted a message about moving over on a message board motorists passed before reaching the vehicle.
Albers said 68 vehicles were pulled over during the five-and-a-half hour enforcement project.
Officers conducted a similar setup on I-29 southbound north of Council Bluffs on Thursday, which resulted in 54 drivers being pulled over.
Both started around 9 a.m.
“We intentionally did not go out during morning rush hour,” Albers said.
Albers said the police department is participating in the statewide Specialized Traffic Enforcement Program, with additional officers on patrol every night through Sept. 7.
The department annually applies for and receives a grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, which covers overtime for STEP projects — this year’s dates include July 3 to 7, Aug. 21 to Sept. 7 and yet-to-be-announced dates in November. The roughly $30,000 grant covers the overtime, with the bureau also allotting $10,000 to purchase items from a list with the grant funding. Albers said the department generally buys in-car cameras, sobriety breath tests and speed monitoring devices with the funds.