SIDNEY — Drivers in Sidney may want to think twice before running a red light or stop sign in the near future.
“Running a red light even ‘just one time’ can have catastrophic consequences. Failing to yield to oncoming traffic, as required by a red light, significantly raises the potential for accidents. If you run a red light and get into a wreck, they tend to be more serious and someone has a higher potential to be hurt,” Sidney Police Chief William Balling said.
In 2020, there were over 500 accidents in the city of Sidney. From the first of the year through July 1, there have been 245 accidents in Sidney. Because of this, the Sidney Police Department has begun extra enforcement on red light and stop sign violations that is expected to continue over the next several months. Balling said that they’re seeing more and more red light violations in the city, and the priority is the safety of the citizens of Sidney and the community as a whole.
“It is not to raise revenue for the police department. We do not receive any funds from a red light or stop sign citation. We are also not doing it because we have nothing else to do. Our officers are very busy handling calls and also prefer to do community relations events rather than traffic details, but it is part of our job,” Balling said.
According to Balling, the majority of drivers admit to running red lights only part of the time, and most of the time, drivers run a light that has barely turned red while trying to “beat the yellow”. The majority of times a driver runs a red light is because they are in a hurry or feeling impatient.
“Whether you’re running through the red light or coming to a stop sign, it’s important to proceed with caution and realize those few seconds you might save by trying to beat a yellow light before it turns red or trying to just roll through the stop sign — if you have an accident, you’re going to hurt yourself or somebody else, or you’re also going to slow down your time,” Balling said.
Balling added that speeding and running red lights or stop signs doesn’t save much time for drivers in a hurry — in total, it only saves minutes, and Balling emphasized that it’s more important to get somewhere safe without many issues than to arrive a few minutes early.
Another reason drivers run red lights is because they fail to see the light to begin with, usually due to distracted driving. Balling said that regardless of the reason for running red lights, doing so creates enormous dangers for the driver, their passengers, and any other vehicle on the road.
“The danger is simply too high for the time that it will save,” Balling said.
The decision to increase enforcement on red light and stop sign violations comes after the department was approached by Sidney Mayor Mike Barnhorst and city council regarding the issue, but the department has been working on different traffic enforcement solutions over the last several years.
“I think they’ve seen it themselves, personally, or have had people in their wards or districts mention how it seems to be an ongoing problem that’s increasing. It’s a combination of things — we want to get out there as a police department and reduce accidents. That’s our number one reason for traffic enforcement, but I think they saw, personally, a number of violators running red lights or stop signs, which concerns them,” Balling said. “We just don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Some of the enforcement solutions the department has been working on has involved running analysis of where accidents are happening and where the potential for serious accidents is so that they can have stronger enforcement in those areas to reduce serious accidents. A big component with accident prevention, as always, is educating the public and talking about the need to pay attention, slow down and not be in a hurry.
“We only have so many officers on the streets, and they’re busy handling calls, so we can’t be everywhere enforcing speed or traffic or stop sign violations. It’s really going to have to take the community to want to slow down,” Balling said. “The last thing that I want to do is to visit someone’s home and let them know that they have lost a loved one do to an accident that could have been avoided. Lets work together to reduce this danger.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.