In the Know column: Be patient in Douglas County's summer traffic
Visitors may drive slower because they are unfamiliar with the area and where their next turn is. Our roads around the lakes can be confusing even to local people.
Spring has finally arrived! People have been waiting to get outside and enjoy some warm weather, and Douglas County gets much busier at this time of year because of that. That’s a good thing, and we hope that everyone can enjoy the summer activities safely.
We are already seeing an increase in vehicle traffic on our roads as people return to the area to open lake homes and to visit. The traffic volume will continue to increase as we move into summer. There will also be people coming to the area that have never visited here before. Patience while we are driving is important. Visitors may drive slower because they are unfamiliar with the area and where their next turn is. Our roads around the lakes can be confusing even to local people.
It is important to slow down a little and be more attentive while we are driving. Speed and distracted driving are still leading causes of crashes involving injuries and deaths. In five seconds at 40 mph, a vehicle will travel 300 feet. That means if a driver looks away from the road for five seconds to check or send a text, deal with a child or grab something from the floor or backseat, the vehicle has already covered the distance of a football field! As drivers, we have to be focused on driving. If something else requires our attention, we need to pull over at a safe location and take care of it. Remember, you cannot be in the traffic lane checking or sending a text message including while stopped at a stop sign or stoplight. Impaired driving increases as well with more people in the area and warmer weather. So many tragedies are avoidable by simply not being a driver if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Even while doing everything right, a person can still be involved in a crash so be sure to wear your seat belt.
With the ice finally off our lakes, the boating season has begun. The same things that lead to issues on the road lead to issues on the water. Alcohol consumption is not unusual while people are enjoying the summer weather on the lakes. Water Patrol Deputies patrol our lakes to make sure people are enjoying them safely. I have responded to a lot of drownings over the years, but I have never been to one where the victim was wearing a life vest. Wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) can save your life on the water just like a seat belt can on the road.
Warm weather allows people to enjoy walking, jogging, bicycling and motorcycling. Drivers need to pay special attention for those folks.
For those walking and jogging, it is important to remember to walk or jog against the flow of traffic. It allows for a chance to see the vehicles traveling closest to you and react if needed. We are fortunate to have the Central Lakes Trail that extends the whole length of Douglas County and beyond. The trail offers pedestrians and bicyclists an opportunity to enjoy their time away from the roads.
We also have parks that offer those opportunities. Brophy Park, Kensington Runestone Park and Carlos State Park draw a lot of visitors for that reason. It feels good to have the wind blow through your hair while bicycling or motorcycling, but please wear a helmet. Just like seat belts and PFDs, helmets can prevent serious injuries or deaths. The staff at the sheriff’s office works hard to keep people safe, and everyone can help us with that by planning ahead and thinking about safety while enjoying the summer.
Have a great summer and be safe!
Troy Wolbersen is the Douglas County sheriff. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.