The grace period for bad driving is over.
After one too many complaints from residents about reckless drivers, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office has decided to beef up its patrols starting Monday.
“Back when the pandemic started we reined our guys in from going out and doing traffic enforcement for safety reasons,” Teton County Sheriff’s Lt. Lloyd Funk said. “But since restrictions have loosened there has been a lot more traffic.”
Funk said there have been complaints about excessive speeding on county roads like Fall Creek Road, Spring Gulch Road and South Park Loop.
Other complaints have been about reckless driving behaviors.
“Some people have been pushing the boundaries,” Funk said.
Now that traffic is increasing, Funk said officers will be watching for speeders and for equipment violations.
Deputies will maintain a safe distance or wear masks when pulling someone over.
“As of May 18 we will be back in full force,” Funk said.
There have also been complaints about distracted drivers on cellphones and drivers darting in and out of traffic and ignoring simple traffic laws.
“As we resume normal patrol operations we certainly hope the motoring public will resume better driving habits,” Sheriff Matt Carr said.
In March and April, when people were encouraged to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, law enforcement saw a massive decrease in traffic.
Over those past two months, if people were caught going 65 in a 55 mph zone they likely weren’t pulled over. But as more cars pack the roads, Funk said, it’s important to get drivers back down to the posted speed limits.
“A big thank you to everyone who has been out there driving carefully,” Funk said. “We all need to do what is right and safe.”
Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks announced phased reopenings, and Gov. Mark Gordon’s office has eased health restrictions. As a result, state and county officers have seen an increase in drivers in Teton County.
“It’s not quite back to normal yet,” Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Matt Brackin said, “but we are seeing a lot more out-of-state plates over the past couple weeks.”
Wyoming Highway Patrol has had an increased presence on Teton Pass to enforce brake checks since the truck arrestor is out of commission.
They’re also returning to what Brackin called “proactive enforcement,” because they anticipate an increase in traffic starting next week.
“We are comfortable with maintaining social distance on the roadside in a traffic stop,” Brackin said. “I wear a mask anytime I go inside or get close to someone.”
Traffic violators in town can also expect to be pulled over.
“The Jackson Police Department has shifted some of our focus back to addressing traffic issues,” Lt. Roger Schultz said.
Patrol officers aren’t required to wear personal protective equipment when they make a traffic stop, but most agencies encourage them to stay 6 feet from drivers and to wear a mask if that’s unavoidable.
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