According to Hobbs police statistics, car crashes are down 27 percent citywide this year.
When comparing year-to-date number of accidents from January through July to last year's tally, the numbers reflect a decrease of 132 crashes — a drop from 487 during the same time last year to 355 this year. Hobbs police say it's a result of “hot spot” policing or increased visibility along areas with frequent crashes. For example, two crash “hot spots” last month were Joe Harvey Boulevard with seven accidents and North Turner Street with nine. The hot spots can vary month-to-month.
“That’s our goal to reduce crashes in the city and make it a safer motoring environment for our citizens,” Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall said. “That’s the whole point of traffic enforcement — try to gain voluntary compliance and make for a safer traveling environment.”
There were a total of 34 crashes in July while HPD officers conducted 4,511 traffic stops and wrote 1,249 citations. There were 71 crashes reported in July 2015.
McCall said the department is always looking to improve and acknowledged the decreases are not always significant each month. He added that it’s hard work for the traffic units to identify the areas and credited the "motoring public" as well.
“We’re happy with the reduction,” he said. “That means fewer injuries and less property damage, but our goal is always zero.”
In fact, traffic crashes have gone down in previous years too. There were 923 wrecks clocked in 2010 compared to 738 last year. The numbers are there, but is the decline discernible by police officers on the street?
Officer Travis Jackson works in the traffic unit and is a 13-year veteran with the department. He said they’ve noticed an improvement in driving behavior since the end of 2014.
“We do work almost all the crashes that come out during our tour of duty,” he said. “We went from probably four or five a day — where we would just go from one crash to the next — to we might have one or two a day.”
Jackson said Highway 18 (North Lovington Highway), Joe Harvey Boulevard and Grimes Street “constantly” make the list of the top places for crashes and injuries in town.
“It only takes 25 miles an hour to kill a person if they’re unrestrained, so when you're dealing with 40 and 45 miles an hour — the potential for injury goes way up,” he said. “The cost of the damage goes way up.”
In his position, Jackson has produced monthly reports on traffic crashes during the last two years and said he's seen a “steady decline” with occasional spikes. He attributed such spikes to other factors like weather or students let out for summer break.
“Some of the things that we have the biggest problems with is following too close and speed is a factor in almost every crash,” he said. “Folks don’t realize that if they’re driving just a few miles over the speed limit — that every second they do that — they’re feet closer to their crash. All of our crashes can be avoided with just an extra second and an extra few feet.”
Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb and District 2 Commissioner Jonathan Sena reacted positively about the decrease and mentioned the amended traffic ordinance that was unanimously approved August 1 by the commission. The ordinance raises traffic fines and goes into effect September 5.
“Well, I think it’s good news,” Cobb said. “That was one of the reasons that we wanted to increase our enforcement — to reduce crashes, which at the end of the day, saves people on their automobile insurance. There’s a direct savings to the taxpayer from police reminding people to drive a little slower and be more careful.”
Cobb added the crash reductions are “good for everybody” and encouraged residents to be sensitive to the ordinance and not drive so fast.
“The fines are really not something that we think about as a revenue source for our community, but we do want it to be a deterrent to people that are not driving the speed limit for sure,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sena said he’s observed first-hand the work of Hobbs police’s partnership with the Hobbs City Commission and community to reduce reckless driving.
“We have worked so hard for so many years to make our streets safer,” Sena said. “We have to continue this. Our continued efforts coupled with our new traffic ordinance will only serve to make our community that much safer.”
He acknowledged there’s not one “silver bullet” to reduce reckless driving since it concerns humans with human behavior. However, Sena says a combination of traffic enforcement, engineering and education can make a positive impact.
One method of enforcement are those speed limit trailers around town that remind people how fast they're driving. McCall said the trailers possess a software that can be used to conduct traffic studies, and noted there have been “numerous requests” for trailers in residential areas. Citizens can request a trailer to be placed in their respective neighborhoods or report traffic concerns at 575-397-9284.
Kelly Farrell can be reached at 391-5437 or by email.