On Aug. 8 red-light runners came up against a coordinated effort by local and state police to educate — and enforce — state traffic laws at the intersection of state routes 503 and 502 in Battle Ground.
The traffic enforcement had two Washington State Patrol officers on motorcycles and one Battle Ground Police officer in a cruiser monitoring the intersection during morning rush hour. Washington State Patrol Sgt. Ryan Tanner stood at the northwest corner of the intersection, working as a spotter for officers farther up the highway.
The enforcement wasn’t a secret, as the official Battle Ground city government Facebook page posted a notice the afternoon before. Tanner said the operation wasn’t supposed to be something covert, noting that the city had given a heads-up of what would be happening the day prior.
Battle Ground Police Lt. Mike Fort said the goal of the operation was educating the public on state traffic laws above all else, but that didn’t mean tickets weren’t handed out.
“Some people need tickets to be educated; some people don’t,” Fort remarked.
Though the enforcement ostensibly had a focus on red-light runners, WSP Spokesman Will Finn said that distracted driving, not using seatbelts and unsafe driving maneuvers were also looked for by the operation.
Though the operation fit in with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s Target Zero campaign, funds from it were not used to perform this particular emphasis. WSP’s efforts were funded from the agency’s regular operating expenses, while Battle Ground provided three hours of overtime for its one dedicated officer taking part.
Fort, who was formerly a motorcycle officer with the Portland Police Bureau, explained that using bikes instead of cars or SUVs allowed for greater visibility during operations like the one in Battle Ground.
The intersection emphasis happened about a month after a Ridgefield motorcyclist was hit and killed by a red-light runner in Battle Ground. Fort said the operation wasn’t a direct response to that accident and was in planning for a few months prior.
In terms of where more enforcement was needed, Fort said the department looks at both crash data and the number of complaints called in around the city.
Finn said the operation may lead to conversations with WSDOT regarding increased traffic control at the intersection. Battle Ground City Spokesperson Bonnie Gilberti said the city is in the beginning stages of implementing a dedicated right-hand turn lane at the intersection.
As of press deadline official results of the Aug. 8 emphasis were not available; however Battle Ground City Spokesperson Bonnie Gilberti said that about 30 contacts were made during the course of the operation with about half resulting in citations.