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'Safety Corridor' program update: DPS releases data on enforcement efforts, but questions remain

ADOT report: Deadly crashes in Arizona on the rise
Posted at 4:56 AM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 08:54:17-04

PHOENIX — ABC15 and the Operation Safe Roads team continue to investigate the pilot 'Safety Corridor' program.

Since March, Traffic Anchor Megan Thompson has been asking the Arizona Department of Public Safety to answer questions and provide documentation of the program that was once along four dangerous highways across the state.

Results of safety corridor program

ADOT, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, and DPS created the program in late 2016.

They had signs up to let drivers know that there would be "Zero Tolerance" for bad behavior and tickets would be handed out aggressively as a way to cut down on crashes.

Here are the four parts of the Valley and state that were targeted in late 2016 and early 2017 in this pilot program:

  • I-10 from the I-17 “Stack” to SR 51 “Mini Stack” (milepost 143-147)
  • I-10 from Loop 202 Santan to SR 387 (milepost 162-185)
  • US60 from Loop 101 Price to Loop 202 (milepost 177-190)
  • I-40 from US 93 to US 93 (milepost 49-72)

The program quietly ended in 2020 and many ABC15 viewers have called and emailed the Operation Safe Roads hotline to say, they never saw troopers out there, which may indicate why the program saw a rise in crashes with the program. That data according to ADOT.

"I think if you're going to have a sign and you do nothing, then you lose faith in the... that institution saying, 'Hey, we're looking out for our safety,'" said East Valley commuter Robert Kirkpatrick.

So, were troopers actually trying to change driver behavior?

After months of phone calls and emails to DPS, a portion of our public records request was fulfilled and we received some documents on the program.

In them were more than 130 pages comparing the number of collisions and the number of enforcement efforts.

For example, the department compared the first quarter of the year in 2017, 2018, and 2019. They found in the Phoenix metro, enforcement decreased between 2018 and 2019 both along I-10 in central Phoenix and US 60 in the East Valley. However, total crashes decreased in both spots. Highway patrol found a more obvious correlation on rural highways with a lack of enforcement and an increase in crashes from 2018 to 2019.

These documents also went over the number of drivers who saw those flashing lights in their rearview mirror.

"If we catch you doing those things in those zero-tolerance zones, you will be pulled over," said Sgt. Kameron Lee to ABC15 when the program began back in 2017.

However, the report finds only a small portion of them actually received a ticket in those zones.

Fiscal year 2017 data showed troopers stopped 28,253 drivers, but the total number of citations issued for speed, child restraint, seatbelts, and DUI came to 7,845. This means that only about 28% of drivers who were stopped were issued a citation for these violations.

ABC15 sent a request to DPS asking what happened to the other 72% of drivers and asked if the program would have been more successful if troopers followed the strict design of the program.

Every time since March of 2022 that Thompson has asked the department to answer questions, it has gone ignored.

An on-camera interview request was also denied.

ABC15 is still working to further the story to find out what went wrong to look at what can be done in the future to make our roads safer.