By Paula Ann Solis
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers made several narcotics, weapons and traffic related arrests Wednesday during the department’s high intensity traffic enforcement day, said trooper D. I. Wilson, a public information officer for DPS.
Troopers from DPS and 10 other law enforcement entities, including the Waco Police Department, parked along Interstate 35 from 6 a.m. to midnight Wednesday. Patrol officers covered the McLennan, Bell and Hill counties.
The highway, which runs adjacent to Baylor’s campus, is occupied by many construction workers on a daily basis and is an area of high safety concern, Wilson said.
“We’ve had through the past year or so, an increase in car crashes due to construction zones that we have,” Wilson said. “It’s not the construction workers’ fault. They follow strict guidelines set by the Texas DPS. It’s the motoring public’s fault.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2003 to 2012, the most deaths in highway work zones for the nation were in Texas with 131 reported incidents.
Sgt. Patrick Swanton, the public information officer for Waco police, said to help DPS in its efforts to decrease worker fatalities, Waco police officers were stationed at every work zone within the city limits. Although Waco police made several traffic stops during their patrols, this operation was coordinated by DPS. Waco police only assisted in whichever way they were needed, Swanton said.
This interdepartmental effort has allowed the process to be a great success so far, Wilson said. Although DPS has conducted several high-intensity traffic enforcement days in the past, he said this one was the most effective because more than 10 entities worked together.
“Usually it’s DPS-led,” Wilson said. “But I think getting everybody out here together is really going to help the community.”
Because the enforcement is still underway, Wilson would not say how many arrests were made. The numbers will be released Thursday and Wilson said he predicts the success of this day of “martial motor vehicle law” will lead to several more in the near future.
DPS and other law enforcement officers have seen high incidents of speeding, failure to follow traffic signs, drivers following too closely behind one another, driving while texting and driving while talking on the phone, Wilson said. Drivers who are distracted are often unaware that they are in a work zone because workers are not always as visible as people assume they would be, he said.
“Be mindful because speeding laws are changing in construction zones,” Wilson said. “They do go up and down often and remember that traffic fines are doubled in construction zones. Just because you don’t see a construction worker doesn’t mean he’s not there. Be mindful of the people building our roadways.”