If you’re driving north on Oracle Road between Ina and Magee roads and see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror, you’ve probably been stopped as part of the Oro Valley Police Department’s HiVE program.
HiVE, which stands for High Visibility Enforcement, is a program Oro Valley began in late 2012 to mitigate the increase in rear end accidents at the intersection of Ina Road and Suffolk Drive.
Lt. Chris Olson, the officer in charge of the HiVE program, said one of the important elements of HiVE “is that the public knows this is not a ticket-writing program, but very much an education program.”
Olson said Oro Valley police began the program in September of 2012 because the department was concerned about the number of collisions at two intersections — Oracle Road and Suffolk Drive, and Oracle and Magee roads.
“Those intersections were averaging 70 collisions a year with only a half-mile or less between them,” Olson said. “We wanted to do everything we could to get a reduction in the number of collisions at those intersections.”
And so HiVE was born, with the enforcement effort taking the effect of education through warnings, as well as citations for more serious violations. Olson said the results have reduced collisions by 36 percent at Oracle Road and Suffolk Drive. However, the Oracle and Magee roads intersection saw a 30 percent increase over the prior year, but not that much of an increase over the five-year median average.
The Oracle and Magee intersection had 47 collisions in 2013, 36 in 2012, 40 in 2011, 57 in 2010 and 45 in 2009, for total of 225 for a five-year period giving a median average of 45 collisions per year.
The Oracle Road and Suffolk Drive intersection had 26 collisions in 2013, 41 in 2012, 30 in 2011, 50 in 2010 and 31 in 2009, for a total of 178 collisions over five years.
Chief Daniel Sharp believes the program has been successful on several levels.
“We are fully committed to a data-driven approach to traffic safety, which is a program taught by the National Traffic Safety Administration,” Sharp said. “The idea is we saw an uptick in injury accidents in the area of Oracle and Magee down to Suffolk, so we monitored it and came up with the HiVE program. Distracted driving is a problem on the roads and we want people to pay attention while driving, so we have to engage them to do that. This program is about making the roads safer for drivers and preventing a crash from impacting their lives.”
Chief Sharp said his motorcycle officers, who handle most of the HiVE deployments, tell him they have been making fewer traffic stops and issuing fewer violations.
“That tells me the program is working,” Sharp said. “A good day for us would be when we have no stops and no accidents.”
Sharp, who was appointed chief of police more than 13 years ago, said Oro Valley has gotten a reputation as being tough on traffic scofflaws. Yet Sharp maintains that his police officers are simply enforcing the laws on the books, and in many cases, letting folks off with a warning to be careful about their driving habits.
“We don’t have any speed or red light cameras in Oro Valley,” he said, “but rather use a community policing policy where officers interface with the public. I have a friend who calls Oro Valley a “no wake” zone, in that you have to slow down and not cause waves when going through our town. As a result of that reputation, people are paying attention, it keeps people from speeding through town and we don’t have to write a lot of tickets.”
Olson said since the program began, Oro Valley police officers have written a total of 821 citations through the HiVE program.
“Only 316 of those were for moving violations, which is 20 percent of the total,” Olson pointed out. “There were 493 citations written for non-moving violations, like an expired driver’s license or no insurance, which accounted for 26 percent. The balance was warnings issued to the drivers.”
Olson noted that the HiVE program has been so successful that the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has become a program partner, performing the same functions at Oracle and Ina roads within the county’s jurisdiction and just south of the Oro Valley town line.
“They deploy with us at the same time, but on Pima County motorcycles and in their uniforms,” Olson said. “Pima County Sheriff’s has dedicated a motorcycle officer to every one of our deployments.”
In addition, Olson said, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) has become a partner too because Oracle Road is State Route 77 and the department wants to be part of the effort. Thus far, DPS has deployed once with the Oro Valley HiVE program, Olson noted, since it joined the traffic effort.