Safe driving a priority for Durango police

You donít have to look very hard to see the remnants of an accident at just about any intersection in town. A simple glance through The Durango Herald once in awhile reveals an Action Line column where Mike Smedley is answering a concerned citizen about how bad driving behavior is in Durango and pointing out the lighter side of a bigger problem: Durangoans donít do so well in the ďdriving and not crashingĒ department.

If you look at Durango accident statistics, it would seem that our 5,000-pound cars are magnetic to everything around them. We hit other cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, bicyclists, every animal known to Mother Nature and lots of fixed objects.

So why do we drive so badly?

One at-fault accident has so many negative affects on us. Thereís the citation you willreceive, the insurance rates that will go up, the embarrassment youíll feel and the beloved car youíll have to forgo while itís in the body shop being repaired.

One might try and blame our accidents on the engineering of the roads, the weather, those darned traffic signals and stop signs, or a lack of enough police officers out there to stop bad driving behavior.

While those are factors, the bottom line is our cars are designed to not crash into one another. They have a steering wheel, mirrors, brakes and an accelerator all designed to keep us from contacting other things on the road. So the real issue still lies with each of us and the personal responsibility we take for driving safely.

Letís face it: Our society has introduced many stimulants to our daily drive. We have food and drinks in our vehicles, cellphones, radios, kids, parents, DVD players and navigation systems. And donít forget the computer in your car telling you about everything going on. These are all creature comforts that do nothing to improve the driving safety. It still is up to the driver to constantly pay attention to his surroundings.

Itís easy to forget how much concentration it takes to safely operate a vehicle. Try and remember when you first started driving and how much concentration that took. As our motor skills become developed, we get more relaxed with everyday tasks, including driving. This allows us to become easily distracted behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers. You owe it to yourself and other drivers to fight this urge to be distracted and concentrate on driving first.

The Durango Police Department currently isincreasing its traffic-enforcement efforts, focusing on stopping and citing drivers for those things that cause accidents: distracted driving, following too closely, disregarding traffic-control devices, speeding, reckless and careless driving, and aggressive driving behavior. We also willbe participating in statewide studies to come up with answers to improve driving safety and behavior in our community.

Help us make Durango a safer place to be. Make driving safely your No. 1 priority. Everyone will thank you for it.

Lt. Ray Shupe is assistant operations division commander with the Durango Police Department.