Broken Arrow sees surge in traffic deaths in 2012
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Friday, January 04, 2013
1/04/13 at 8:00 AM
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BROKEN ARROW - More people died on Broken Arrow streets last year than in any year before as the city recorded an alarming increase in traffic crashes, police reported Thursday.
The 13 traffic deaths of 2012 match the total investigated by Broken Arrow police in the previous three years combined, including a one-fatality year in 2010.
The deaths stem from 12 crashes that came in a year that had nearly 10 percent more crashes and 14 percent more traffic-related injuries than the year before.
"We've never seen that in the history of Broken Arrow," Sgt. Ed Ferguson said. "We can't just stand by and let this trend continue."
Ferguson, the Police Department's traffic specialist, blamed the increases on more vehicles on the road, which he said could be a result of milder weather, cheaper gas prices and the city's recent population growth - 34 percent since 2000.
The population went from 74,859 in 2000 to 100,073 in July 2011, the most recent time for which Census figures are available.
But explaining the size of the increases could be difficult, Ferguson said.
"If there was just one specific cause factor ... it would be fairly simple for our officers to develop strategies to reduce the collisions," he said.
"The fact is, a lot of it we have no control over."
Broken Arrow police stepped up patrols and established checkpoints Thursday for a wide swath of traffic violations - including speeding, seat-belt use and drunken driving - as officers began a monthlong effort to cut down on the typical causes of traffic accidents.
The broad scope of the campaign is a testimony to the uncertain causes of the recent increases, Ferguson said.
"Part of our intent is to employ these easily-visible enforcement strategies simply as a reminder to drivers" to follow traffic laws, he said. "Our goal is to reduce crashes."
The campaign, funded partly by an Oklahoma Highway Safety Office grant, will send "large numbers" of officers to watch major corridors "in earnest" and cite motorists for any violations, Ferguson said.
That is a direct reaction to the 2012 statistics, he said.
"We see ups and downs every year, but normally in the city of Broken Arrow, we'll have six or seven" traffic deaths, he said. The 2012 figure - double that - is "a red flag for us as traffic officers that we need to provide some intervention techniques."
All but three of last year's traffic deaths occurred on surface streets, where much of the enforcement will occur, Ferguson said. The other three were on the Broken Arrow Expressway.
The Broken Arrow deaths are still a fraction of the number in Tulsa, where the 396,466 population is nearly four times that of Broken Arrow. In 2011, Tulsa police recorded 38 traffic deaths. The 2012 figure has not been released.
Broken Arrow traffic deaths
Original Print Headline: Broken Arrow sees surge in traffic deaths in 2012
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Sgt. Erik Van Horn (right) and Officer Ian Soergel talk with motorists at a traffic checkpoint Thursday in Broken Arrow. More people died on Broken Arrow streets last year than in any year before. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Officer Stephen Garrett II talks with a motorist Thursday at a traffic checkpoint in Broken Arrow. The Police Department is setting up checkpoints in response to a record number of fatal crashes in the city. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
A police officer pulls a traffic ticket from a printer. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World