Although the sign reads 60 mph, officers unofficially gave a 10 mph speed cushion to violators in Friday’s special traffic enforcement detail. However, police said the cushion was desperately needed given their resources.
Columbia police officers, along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Boone County Sheriff’s Department, stopped 141 vehicles between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Police said officers wrote 139 tickets for speeding, one for expired registration and one for a red light violation. They also arrested two on drug-related charges and two for prior arrest warrants.
Sgt. Timothy Moriarity, the Columbia Police Department’s Traffic Unit supervisor, said unofficially that officers gave violators a 10 mph leeway on the 60 mph speed limit on eastbound Interstate 70 within city limits.
“With the number of traffic stops we made, if it was lower we would have been overwhelmed,” Moriarity said. “The officers were pretty busy. There were very few down times.”
The Boone County Sheriff’s department and the Columbia police were also supported partially by an “Operation Slow Down” grant, which helped cover the costs of the number of police officers in the detail. The police department was also supported through a grant from the Missouri Coalition for Highway Safety.
The detail was in response to a fatal crash June 19 and the holiday weekend. The location was chosen to help people slow down before they entered into Columbia.
Moriarity said the operation was part of a campaign to reduce fatalities statewide to 1,000 each year by 2008. He said just having the officers in the area was significant enough to make the weekend safer.
“If you were not stopped by us, you saw us and it probably affected your driving,” Moriarity said. “Mainly the whole concept of this operation was to have people arrive alive to their destination. I’d rather write a ticket than work a crash.”
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department also conducted a sobriety checkpoint Saturday morning on Highway 763.
Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ewing said in a release that the department had 225 vehicles come through the checkpoint. Deputies conducted 35 sobriety tests and arrested 10 on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The department also arrested 24 on suspicion of other moving or criminal violations.
Ewing said the department chose Highway 763 because there had been a large number of alcohol-related arrests recently made in the area.
The numbers the Sheriff’s Department got from the checkpoint were pretty typical, Ewing said, but he stressed that any stop made where someone is found under the influence is significant.
“Even if we had gotten only one, that’s one less impaired driver on the road that might have caused a major or fatal accident,” Ewing said.