It may be sunny out in Wisconsin as summer gets ready to greet motorists with warmer weather, but in the meantime law enforcement in several cities in the state are focusing on increasing enforcement to improve driver and pedestrian safety.
The Madison Police Department is taking advantage of a grant that pays for officer overtime while working traffic details that limit unsafe behavior, and law enforcement officials say that their efforts are part of the "Zero in Wisconsin" campaign.
Officers on the new Madison police details will be specifically targeting drivers and bicyclists who are putting themselves and pedestrians at risk, according to a release from the department. Drivers who are not already aware of the "Click it or Ticket" campaign that occurs nationally may also be interested to know that they are legally allowed to stop a car if the motorist is not wearing a seatbelt, even if they are not doing anything else illegal.
The program will continue throughout the year, according to the department, and involves many of the motorcycle-based officers who have been seen in increased numbers on recent Thursdays.
In Beloit, police are likewise picking up their citation pads more often. According to the city's Daily News, citations were up 10 percent from 2009 compared to 2008, and are on pace to rise an additional six percent. Rock County Sheriff's officers have increased their ticketing on a similar level.
"Over the last five to seven years, we saw a trend in fatal accidents, and in the majority of the cases alcohol was a factor," Rock County Sheriff's Department Captain Jude Maurer told the newspaper. "Instead of sitting and running stationary radar, we said ‘'What else can we do to catch attention?'"
Increased enforcement in the region has included the use of grants similar to those obtained by Madison Police Department officers to focus solely on high-risk areas where multiple drivers speed, and officers in both departments have said that drivers are likely to be cited without getting a warning due to the increased vigilance. This will lead to some drivers needing to attend an online traffic school
or other means of reducing points in order to keep their license.
It's not just in Beloit and Madison where drivers need to keep an eye out for an increased police presence. Wisconsin was one of the few states to get money from the American Recovery and Re-investment Act in order to continue road maintenance and construction programs. Combined funding from the state and Federal sources will allow $170 million worth of work to be completed in the northwestern portion of the state.
Construction may lead to safer roads, but in the interim drivers will need to be cautious when nearing sites because of the increased penalties and fines that arise from traffic infractions committed when workers are on site. The work is expected to continue while the weather is good on Highway 53, as well as other roads in northern Wisconsin.