City traffic

Aug 23, 2013 Steve Peck, Publisher

A new municipal ordinance changes things for collection and enforcement

It probably came as a surprise to many Riverton residents to hear that the city had passed an ordinance requiring all drivers to have a valid driver's license.Hadn't that been required before? Yes and no. Required, yes. By the city, no.

The state of Wyoming issues driver's licenses in Wyoming, not the city. And fines for minor traffic offenses such as speeding or traffic light violations, are paid to county courts, not municipal. So, as a legal matter the city had a lot of enforcement responsibilities for traffic violations, but no adjudication authority to speak of.

This changes that, and the city will make some money from it. Under the new ordinance, the city now can collect fines from traffic offenses in the city, and the money collected goes to city accounts rather then to the county courts.

Cities and towns in Wyoming generally are strapped for cash, and this can be a relatively simple way, apparently, for the city to increase its cash flow.

A separate issue concerns whether speeding tickets and red-light violations ought to be pursued as sources of revenue for local government. Are speed limits posted for public safety or are they guidelines against which local police can crack down on violators in order to improve the city's financial profile? Practically speaking, they are both.

In some communities, a police car, painted or otherwise adorned so as not to be confused with any other type of vehicle, parks in a prominent location in town so that it can be seen. Speeding or other traffic offenses are deterred. In other places, police cars carry markings that are much less conspicuous. They might hide out of sight to monitor speeders and nab them in the act. Many local governments use a combination of these methods. Traffic laws exist to regulate the flow of automobiles and to protect public safety, but when fines must be paid, where the money goes is a legitimate issue for discussion. The new city ordinance is a response to that discussion.

So don't be astonished from this point forward to see more enforcement of traffic laws in the Riverton city limits. This could be positive in more ways than one. It could improve the flow of dollars to city coffers, and it could mean there are fewer speeders revving up and down our city streets.

In recent months we have carried numerous letters to the editor on this very page urging reductions in speed limits in certain parts of town and/or the alternative, more enforcement of the limits that exist now. Might we suggest, now that more scrutiny is going to be applied to speeding, that West Main from Major Avenue to Hill Street be one of the areas of renewed emphasis? Cars coming in from the west often have not slowed down to the posted 45 mile per hour speed limit and are still racing along at 55 or 60 mph or faster. From the other direction, drivers often accelerate as quickly as possible past major and are traveling well in excess of the 45 mph limit as they zoom by College View drive or Hill street in anticipation of the highway speed limit of 65 that is just ahead.

At the same time, traffic for schools, for churches, for the businesses in the area and for residential purposes is slowing, turning and crossing West Main at far slower speeds. It can get pretty complicated behind the wheel.

Those who live and/or work in the West Main area between Major and Hill streets - and in the interest of full disclosure, it is acknowledged that the editorial writer is among them - have known for a long time that this part of town is a problem traffic area. With the new ordinance in effect, and with money to be made for the city because of it, increased enforcement of traffic laws in this part of town might be a good place to start.

-- Steven R. Peck

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