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Speed trap

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By Carol A. Clark

Armed with a radar gun, the Monitor found plenty of drivers exceeding speed limits in Los Alamos the past few weeks.

Most seemed to be commuters, people driving off the hill to get home or up the hill to get to work.

The speed limit is 25 mph around town unless otherwise posted.

And while most drivers kept to the limit at many locations, one of the speeder hotspots is East Road traveling west. The speed limit is 50 mph, drops to 45 and then 40 at the far west end past Los Alamos County Airport. Drivers clocked speeds of 48 to 62 mph in that 40 mph zone.

At the 35 mph Trinity Drive curve near DP Road, drivers ramped up to 57 mph.

The two areas where excessive speeding is most prevalent is the main hill road curving toward White Rock where drivers reached 65 mph once they got past the curves and the truck route where speeds of 66 mph were clocked by commuters on the way into Los Alamos.

The truck route (East Jemez Road) is where Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Miranda Martinez lost her life in a head-on collision Friday.  She was 29.

Other areas drivers like to hit the accelerator pedal hard included: Drivers veering off East Road onto Central Avenue where it drops to 25 mph, barreled along at 46 mph; On Diamond Drive heading north drivers accelerated over the hill and past 36th street at nearly 50 mph.

Business owners on DP Road are well aware of vehicles racing in front of their establishments. Every so often they alert police who send out a police cruiser and that settles things down for a while. Robin Dill has worked at Los Alamos Home Improvement/Ace Hardware for nearly 17 years, “We do have a lot of trouble with speeders on this road.”

  Despite the discovery of high rates of speed, Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy said Friday’s accident was unusual.

The truck route is typically the site of one-car fender benders and drivers sliding into guard rails during inclement weather.

“Right now and at the exact time of that accident our speeding zone enforcements are being conducted in school zones,” Torpy said. “I can’t say we don’t have speeding issues in Los Alamos County – but I don’t want to say we have excessive speeding problems either.”

Torpy said it’s not yet known whether speed was a factor in Friday’s fatal traffic accident.

Records  show that traffic accidents have increased during the last three years.

In 2009, there was an average of 20 accidents per month with a low in February of 13 and a high of 66 in October.

Traffic citation and accident location data wasn’t tracked by LAPD until Torpy moved here from Florida five years ago. He introduced the computerized program, Accountability Based Law Enforcement (ABLE), to the department. ABLE is an accident and crime reduction program designed to provide police with data relating to accident details and other trends.

Traffic data is tracked on an electronic map providing a graphical snapshot of where most speeders and accidents are occurring within the community.

“During our monthly ABLE meetings, we talk about where accidents are currently occurring,” Deputy Police Chief Kevin Purtymun said. “Historically we see most accidents taking place at the intersections of Diamond and Trinity and Diamond and Canyon. We also see a lot of accidents in parking lots.”

Purtymun said police look at the data and take into account citizen input to balance all of their resources. His department runs six citizen-driven patrol zones at which officers show a presence, warning speeders to slow down.

“Our goal in traffic enforcement is to reduce accidents and the injuries they cause,” Torpy said. “It’s always one of our biggest challenges to get folks to voluntarily comply – we work all the different enforcement zones on a rotation basis, drivers see us and slow down and we move to the next area – when we get back around the speeding has started up again.”