COLUMBIA — A joint group of police agencies stopped 218 drivers on Friday in Boone County in the largest joint traffic enforcement detail of the year — “Operation Spring Brake.” Dozens of extra officers targeted aggressive drivers on major routes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in an effort to keep roads safe as drivers left town for spring break.
“This is the second year for it, and each year we’re trying to increase the number of agencies that are involved in it. We had six agencies here this morning,” said Sgt. Paul Reinsch of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Between 12 and 15 of the officers from the Columbia Police Department were involved in the joint operation, along with at least six from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as well as others from the Hallsville, Centralia and Ashland police departments and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Five canine units were deployed as well.
“The only regret I have, truly, is that ... I wish I would have gotten university police involved. It was an unfortunate oversight,” said Sgt. Timothy Moriarity, traffic unit supervisor of the Columbia Police Department.
The six agencies paid extra officers to work overtime to “saturate” the major highways and state routes in the area.
Moriarity said officers targeted areas traveled by people heading off for spring break. He said the mere added presence of police on the roads seemed to have an impact on the way people were driving.
One-hundred and forty five people were arrested for speeding; Moriarity said the Columbia Police Department was responsible for about half of those. On a normal day, they only arrest about ten.
Fifty-one people were arrested for hazardous moving violations, 11 for not wearing their seat belts, and 41 others for non-hazardous moving violations. There were 5 drug arrests, 2 suspended motorists and five uninsured motorists. In addition, one fugitive statutory rapist was found.
Moriarity said there was one accident, where a man rear ended another car on U.S. 63 between 4 and 5 p.m.
Columbia police captain Zim Schwartze said officers do not always have time to do as many traffic stops as they’d like because service calls take up so much of their time.
Schwartze said the spring break risk was made clear a few weeks ago when young people driving from Tennessee to Utah for camping and biking during their spring break had a collision on Interstate 70.
“It appears that he was so tired — not intoxicated — that he crashed and rolled the car, and a few did get ejected and got hurt,” Schwartze said of the driver and others involved in the accident.
“We just want our young folks, as well as all families traveling for Easter, the holiday weekend, to drive safely and get where they want to go,” Schwartze said.
All of the extra officers volunteered to work, she said, and even the sheriff of Hallsville was present to help out.
Much of the funding for the operation will come from the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. Schwartze said they won’t know just how much the effort cost until they can send in the staff reports for the hours the officers worked.
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety formed in 2004 and consists of private and public organizations, with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Missouri Highway Patrol and MU as the key players. The joint traffic enforcement details is a major approach the coalition is taking to reduce accidents on state roads, along with better engineering, public education, and emergency response.
“Our job is to try to change driver behavior. And so when we can get more law enforcement out there, if you travel from Kansas City to St. Louis on I-70 and you see law enforcement every 10 miles, that makes a big impact on changing behavior,” said Scott Turner, program administrator for MoDOT.
Other joint enforcement operations are also being planned for Boone County, including a DWI event around Cinco De Mayo, a saturation detail during proms, and a “Click it or Ticket” operation at the end of May.
“I want to emphasize that people should drive safely all the time, and there’s going to be some carry over, some extra enforcement, this weekend,” Moriarity said.