Updated on: 5/17/2017
Victoria Arrayales is a current high school senior who's excited to attend NYU starting this fall. She hopes to major in Public Policy and go on to become a lawyer. As a high school student, Victoria participated in starting a mock trial team at her school and serving as one of its leaders.
Any reasonable person would believe that a town dubbed the "winter lettuce capital of the world" is a small, boring agricultural community. While that statement holds true, Yuma, Arizona is rapidly expanding. Due to our ability to grow year round, our jobs in the agricultural sector are expanding and the warm winter weather is attracting more and more older individuals to come and live here. Due to its expansion, however, in recent years we have also seen an increase in road construction. Just last year, our town was approved for 7 million dollars in spending in order to repave roads and make them wider. With all this new construction, comes the danger of hurting our workers as well as controlling reckless driving around these traditionally slow areas.
For as long as I can remember, Yuma has had a campaign called Move Over AZ in which drivers are advised to take extra precaution around construction areas. The movement highlights the very real danger of speeding drivers colliding with road workers who risk their lives to create a better driving environment. While the campaign definitely draws attention, it has not been noticeably effective in getting drivers to slow down and be cautious. Although Yuma is small, people here drive as if they resided in Boston. Drivers speed, swerve, and go on the offensive if their place in a lane is threatened. For a town that holds a reputation for being so calm, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. The problem is this idea ingrained in people's minds about how the faster driver gets there first. I've also heard many times the concept of "I don't want anyone walking all over me," so people speed to prove they are just as strong as the other drivers on the road. While I understand these ideas are almost primitive, relevant to our ideas of survival of the fittest, they aren't ideas we should be having while conducting a two ton vehicle during rush hour.
While "Move Over AZ" was well meaning, solely because something is well meaning doesn't mean it will work. Awareness is only one piece in reducing the problem within reckless driving around construction places. Speeding is one of the main issues and this can be reduced by implementing radar tools to make sure drivers know they will be caught speeding if they do. The strategic placing of police officers in areas where construction is expected would also reduce reckless driving, no matter what it consists of. Additionally, since the main issue appears to be around places where the road is undergoing repairs, giving the workers and the traffic a wider berth would be beneficial. Oftentimes, the safety cones are placed inches away from the area of repair. The idea of the safety cones should be to place them several feet away so that drivers have sufficient room to recover in case their car gets out of control. Driving classes should be focused more on defensive driving, as should parents and the learner's permit manual. Consistently addressing defensive driving will enforce the idea throughout everyone's mind to the point where those thoughts will be more prominent than those associated with offensive driving. While the majority of the work should be on the driver's themselves to improve their abilities, the city government should shoulder some of the burden as well. One big fault is planning. The repair of one of our busiest streets, 4th Avenue, went under construction during the peak season for people from the north coming down to spend the warm winter here. The traffic problem we already had was made worse. The construction should have begun in May, when all the winter visitors had gone. Other construction projects have even gone underway during school. Parents rush and push to find a decent space to drop off their children in a timely manner. Again, this is construction that should have happened during the summer or winter breaks. Lastly, our government should cooperate with the local media in order to alert drivers a few days ahead of time as to any road repairs that are planned to begin. Having those few days to prepare can save some people the rush to construct a new route in their minds within the ten minutes it takes for them to commute to work.
Just as our community is as good as banding together when one of our own is need, we should be able to band together to reduce traffic accidents that occur around and during construction. The responsibility falls on both our city government and the people to educate and cooperate. Through the measures detailed above, accidents can dramatically decrease in frequency. Our peaceful town can retain its calm while still pursuing the economic expansion we work hard to achieve.