Bergner: Slowing down Prescott Valley drivers, one road at a time
With National Newspaper Week upon us, professional journalists and their organizations across the country are receiving the proverbial pat on the back for keeping their community informed and up to date on local issues and beyond.
And sometimes, we even get a chance to make an impact on our own neighborhoods by calling attention to a local problem.
That problem for me? Speeding in Prescott Valley.
Speeding isn’t just a local problem, however, it’s a national epidemic of lead-footed drivers who seem to not give a hoot that they might kill someone, or themselves, one day.
Ever been passed in a 25 mph residential zone going 25? I have, on Manley Drive in Prescott Valley. The driver was so irate he was shaking his finger at me like I stole something while zooming past me.
I’ve used this column in the past to bring to light the issues on Manley Drive in Prescott Valley, or “speedway,” as I called it, where a resident even went as far as spray painting “25 MPH” on the roadway in large red letters.
Instead of giving myself a pat on the back (I have fairly long arms, so it may be possible), I must tell you all what an amazing job the Prescott Valley Police Department (PVPD) has done in addressing the issue since the column.
Despite fighting serious staffing concerns, several local traffic cops made an effort to police Manley Drive more than usual in the last two months, and those who live in the area quickly noticed a difference.
PVPD Officer Jake Lichlyter, the lead police officer (LPO) in traffic division, was kind enough to sit down and talk with The Daily Courier about the speeding issues not only on Manley Drive, but in Prescott Valley as a whole.
He first explained the amount of traffic coming through town every day, pointing to a recent study done that revealed around 860 cars travel on Manley Drive per day.
“[That’s] kind of a lot for that small road, especially with the lack of striping, and all of those other things, the nature of the roadway being hilly,” Lichlyter said.
He went on to compare it to nearby Glassford Hill, which has something in the ballpark of 25,000 cars per day, or Highway 69, which has 45,000 per day.
“That’s equivalent to what you would see on I-17. So, we have a massive amount of traffic coming through Prescott Valley,” he said, adding later, “We are unfortunately in some ways a very data-driven agency, because we use science and math to figure out what we should be doing. … The trouble is we go where the problem is. And the biggest problem is on the bigger roadways.”
So how does PVPD try to thwart speeders on Manley Drive when their obvious concern would be more so the major arteries like Glassford Hill, or Robert Road?
The answer isn’t a simple one. But, Lichlyter said a few steps he and his fellow officers took were accomplished, such as increased patrol at certain times of day or night, setting up speed carts along the side of the road. Even the possibility of placing an unmanned patrol vehicle was discussed.
“I encouraged [our officers], ‘Hey if you’re going through town and there’s no emergency, try to drive down Manley.’ Visual deterrents work,” Lichlyter said. “When [people] see an officer driving down the road in a marked cruiser, you see them tapping the brakes, or putting their seat belts on. That’s proof that visual deterrents work.”
“If it says 25, that means it should be 25,” he added later.
Officer Lichlyter gave a few tips for locals to help assist the police in catching overly-aggressive drivers, including paying attention to the type of car, the make, the model, and getting a license plate number if possible. He said to focus on the time of day, if and when you see the same driver at the same time? Or different times?
“The community as a whole, you guys are our eyes and butter. We need visual, we need you to grease our skids. We need information,” Lichlyter said. “If we have specific information, it makes it easier to take enforcement action. That makes me happy. If I can solve the problem for you, it may be temporary, it may be long term, I don’t know, but I really like solutions.”
And with 76 sworn personnel currently on PVPD’s payroll and a few more coming in January, their presence will only continue to grow.
“It’s not an ‘us and them’ thing,” PVPD Public Information Officer Jerry Ferguson said, referring to the police and the residents they are sworn to protect. “It’s a ‘we’ thing.”
If there was ever a time to work together, it is now.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is news/sports editor for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud at @TheEditorDesk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.