The St. Paul police department puts its foot down.
Distracted driving is a serious modern-day problem. Despite authorities enforcing severe consequences, the number of incidents associated with distracted drivers is on the rise. These cellphone-hogging drives represent a hazard particularly to vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists, and, of course, motorcyclists. In any scenario pitting them against a car, the car tends to win. In St. Paul, Minnesota, it has become such a plague that the police department has decided to pull its motorcycle and horse-mounted units off the roads for safety reasons.
The St. Paul police department announced it will be getting rid of its two-wheeled and four-legged motorcade. In fact, both the city’s motorcycle and horse-mounted units will be disbanded and the officers, reassigned to patrol vehicles.
The decision comes after an increase in service calls that requires a higher number of officers in cars, but also because of increasing safety concerns due to distracted drivers. “Distracted driving” isn’t just a hard-hitting slogan agencies and emergency services use to promote safety—the issue is such a plague that the police department is fearing for its officers’ safety. The city claims that over the past two years, over 500 crashes involving pedestrians and bicycles have been reported with a high number of them associated with distracted driving—six of which have been fatal.
As for the officers themselves, over the past four years, a total of 15 incidents involving the motorcycle unit has been reported. Following this decision, three of the officers pulled from the straddling units will join a new special unit that will specifically target and crack down on distracted drivers.
“As good stewards of the public’s trust and resources, we have to do everything possible to streamline efforts to keep our community safe, reduce response times and engage the community. I also have an obligation to keep officers safe,” explained Chief of Police Todd Axtell in an e-mail to his department. On the bright side, reassigning the officers will represent important savings for the department and allow them to answer a wider variety of calls.