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Why did freeway 'Safety Corridor' program end? New ADOT data showed rise in dangerous behavior

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Posted at 5:22 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 09:51:42-04

PHOENIX — It was a campaign meant to reduce crashes on specific Arizona highways, especially serious and deadly ones.

"If we catch you doing those things in those zero-tolerance zones, you will be pulled over," said Sergeant Kameron Lee with the Arizona Department of Public Safety back in 2017.

DPS spoke with ABC15 shortly after the Safety Corridor program began and they discussed the major effort underway with enforcement to change driver behavior.

But new data shows it was not as successful as anyone had hoped.

"I remember seeing a sign," said East Valley commuter Robert Kirkpatrick. "I figured it would be more police pulling people over."

ABC15 spoke with Kirkpatrick after he commented on this ABC15 Facebook post. He sounded off on the program's end.

Some people were happy, as they thought it was a money grab. Others say it may have worked better if they would have ever seen a DPS trooper in the Safety Corridor at all.

We asked Kirkpatrick if he ever saw enforcement going on while he drove on the US 60 from Loop 101 to Loop 202, where zero-tolerance signs were prominently displayed.

"No. Maybe once in a blue moon, but I mean we're talking maybe 25 times a month I was up and down the roads," Kirkpatrick explained. "So... I definitely less than once a month I would see, in normal conditions, somebody pulled over or interacting with officers."

Kirkpatrick said he mostly only saw troopers when an accident had already occurred.

The Safety Corridor program was created by ADOT with the support of DPS and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety to look at crash-prone areas. They told Arizona drivers they would be cracking down on bad behavior.

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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)

ABC15 learned through a public records request with ADOT that the program had ended in July of 2020 after the agency found the total number of speeding drivers and the number of behavior-related crashes had gone up in these areas.

There was a bit of success — the number of serious and deadly crashes did decrease slightly.

The signs telling drivers about the zero-tolerance zones stayed up with no designated program in place for a full year and a half after it ended.

So, why was this not the success drivers wanted?

Many ABC15 viewers believe it did not work because DPS just was not there to provide education and enforcement to ultimately change driver behavior.

ABC15 submitted a public records request with the department in late March 2022 to ask for the following items: the number of tickets and warnings handed out in the Safety Corridors, scheduling, and overtime costs for troopers to be assigned to these areas, and much more.

ABC15 has been following up with the department on multiple occasions by phone and email since then and has asked for an on-camera interview. That was declined.

ABC15 also sent a list of questions, including if staffing was an issue and what the department was working on now to help with safety on our roads. We have not received any data or a response to the questions. We have only been told it is being looked into and the department is still working on it. ABC15 will continue to follow up with DPS on their impact, if any, on this program.

Since DPS has not provided ABC15 with what is next to help save lives on Arizona roads, we asked Kirkpatrick what he was hoping for.

"What I'd like to see is.... using technology to kind of say, 'OK, how can we adjust traffic flow?" Kirkpatrick said. "'Can we incentivize our partners in the Valley... some of these larger employers to reduce traffic on those roadways?'"

Kirkpatrick also mentioned changes need to be made with the Valley population growing. It is something ADOT also touched on in their report too, saying they could not determine if the rise in crashes could also be attributed to more drivers out there on the roads.

Do you have a road issue or a question for the Operation Safe Roads team? You can call 833-AZ-ROADS or email roads@abc15.com.