FRANKLIN, Ind. — As police agencies are making fewer traffic stops during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities are asking drivers to do their part for public safety by obeying traffic laws.
“I think folks are forgetting that we are out here enforcing, or they’re expecting us not to enforce,” Franklin Police Chief Kirby Cochran said. “We want folks to understand, just because we’re dealing with the situation with COVID-19, we still haven’t stopped enforcing the traffic laws.”
In the last few weeks, Cochran says his department has seen an increase in complaints about drivers running stop signs in neighborhoods. His officers have also noticed higher speeds on major roadways like U.S. 31.
“Where you might have a 50-mile-an-hour zone, you’re in the 70s, which typically doesn’t happen a lot in our city,” Cochran said. “This morning alone, speeds in our 30-mile-per-hour zones are in the 50s, mid-50s. We had one at 62 this morning.”
Indiana State Police Sergeant, John Perrine, says Troopers have noticed a similar trend on interstates. Restrictions on non-essential travel have reduced crash numbers, but increased speeds.
“The speeds that we are taking enforcement action on are higher,” Perrine said. “We’re seeing higher numbers of people driving over 100 miles an hour.”
Perrine believes some drivers are going faster simply because there aren’t many other vehicles around them on the interstates.
“We recognize that that lack of traffic allows more of an ‘open road’ for those people that want to commit very dangerous traffic violations,” Perrine said. “And we can not turn a blind eye to that.”
“I would say the open road can be deceiving,” Cochran said. “Deceiving to the eye and the foot.”
The “open road” is the result of restrictions on non-essential travel, and police officers working to limit person-to-person interaction in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The combination of factors has resulted in a drastic reduction in traffic stops on Indiana roadways.
A recent IUPUI study of IMPD records shows traffic stops fell from an average 270 per day before the March 23 stay-at-home order, to 33 per day after the order took effect. Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess said average traffic stops have dropped from 55 per day to 5. Columbus Police report an average of 11 traffic stops per day has gone down to 2.
“People still need to know that we are out and enforcing the law,” Sheriff Burgess said. “We took an oath and people need to come together especially now during this epidemic.
Cochran and other public safety officials are asking drivers to do their part for the safety of the public by obeying traffic laws, especially in neighborhoods where more families are spending time at home and going out for walks and bike rides during the day.