Police stepping up to reduce crashes, distracted driving

From Region 8 News at Six
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 10:41 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Police Department aims to crack down on distracted driving and reduce crashes.

Officer Zach Kaja, a patrolman with the Jonesboro Police Department, said the city has a lot of factories and businesses. People are coming from different counties into Jonesboro for work every day.

He added that most of the wrecks are caused by out-of-town people or Arkansas State University students going to school, who may also not know the town’s layout.

The JPD has what’s called a STEP (Selective Traffic Enforcement Program) Grant from the state to help address the issue.

“The STEP grant involves seat belts, distracted driving, DWI, speed, and all of that,” Kaja said. “It’s all funding from the state. It’s stuff officers can work extra.”

When it comes to traffic crashes, Kaja said his traffic team normally responds to an average of three to five crashes daily.

“They’re [traffic crashes] going up. I believe that’s because as the population goes up, it’s going to continue to go up until we get people to do less distracted driving,” Kaja said.

According to data from JPD, there were 3,067 traffic crashes in 2020; 3,601 in 2021; and 3,286 in 2022.

As for this year, Kaja said he believes there will probably be a similar number of incidents on the road at the end of this year, but that number may be even higher.

The Northwest Arkansas city of Rogers has the closest population to Jonesboro, with around 8,000 fewer people but a much larger population density. The city had 1,793 traffic incidents in 2022, about 1,400 fewer than what was reported in Jonesboro, according to the Rogers Police Department.

According to AAA, data showed a large number of incidents where people are on their cell phones, looking at the infotainment center, or distracted by their passengers.

“There are risks every time you get out on the road, but the goal everyone should have is to be a defensive driver, be able to react in certain situations and make sure you’re keeping yourself and others safe around you,” AAA Spokesperson Nick Chabarria said.

Chabarria added traffic crashes can be costly, particularly for the individual at fault for the incident.

“You could expect to see your insurance premiums go up anywhere from 20 to 90 percent after that crash,” Chabarria said.

Even with the JPD’s efforts to cut down on vehicle crashes, Kaja said the numbers are not going down as much as they had hoped.

“The solution is going to have to be more officers doing what we’re doing and doubling or tripling that,” Kaja said.

Kaja advises Jonesboro drivers to obey the laws and keep their eyes on the road.

He said some of the worst areas for traffic in Jonesboro include Caraway, Highland, Southwest Drive, Red Wolf, and Parker Road. There have been 1,948 traffic incidents so far this year in Jonesboro.