According to the Independence Police Department, the largest category of traffic accidents in the city is rear-end collisions caused by following too closely.
Because of this, the department requested some addition language to the city code, specifically Section 18.21.011, what constitutes “Following too closely.”
The ordinance passed at Monday’s City Council meeting made that addition. It states that drivers must leave at least one second of traveling space between their vehicle and those in front of them traveling in the same direction and lane of traffic.
Major Terry Storey of the Police Department said the percentage of accidents in Independence attributed to “following too closely,” as reported to and calculated by the state, was 19.5 percent in 2012 and 21.2 percent in 2013. The percentage of those attributed to “inattention,” which many times results in following too closely, he said, was 24.8 in 2012 and 19.7 in 2013.
Storey said officers have the capability to calculate distances between vehicles using the laser devices in their police cars. Many times, the recommendation for distance between vehicles is two seconds of distance, he said, so Independence is trying to give people more benefit of the doubt.
Emphasis for enforcing the ordinance probably won’t be on city streets as much as highways like Missouri 7, Missouri 78 and Missouri 291 and U.S. 24, as well as the interstate highways.
“We’re not trying to build funds,” Storey said. “We’re trying to get people to bring that stopping distance up.”
The one item pulled from the consent agenda for separate consideration before being passed concerned a price agreement with Roberts Chevrolet Buick for police and special services Chevrolet Tahoes. Council member Curt Dougherty questioned how the purchase of a “gas-guzzling behemoth” that is two-wheel drive might appear to the public.
City Manager Robert Heacock responded that such price agreements are common practice to get the best deals and emphasized that, as stated in the agenda item, the possible purchases would not exceed budgeted amounts.
Deputy Chief Travis Forbes added that the department has no immediate plans to purchase any additional Tahoes; the price agreement is only if the need arises. That particular vehicle has been used by the K-9 units – because of the additional space required for a dog – and by captains who would need extra equipment or space to set up makeshift command posts in the field. The department has considered using Ford Explorers for the K-9 unit, he said.
Forbes said any Tahoes purchased would not be used for regular patrol.