Cottonwood PD issued 2,149 traffic citations last year
Officers hear ‘every excuse in the book’ from errant drivers
Cottonwood 2018 most common traffic citations
• Failure to provide financial responsibility – 318
• Speeding, 11 to 15 MPH over – 290
• Speeding, 16 to 20 MPH over – 146
• No Mandatory Insurance – 130
• Driving with a suspended or revoked license – 124
• No valid driver’s license -- 114
COTTONWOOD – “But officer …”
Traffic cops hear every excuse in the books from errant drivers.
In 2018, Cottonwood police officers had more than 2,000 opportunities to hear those excuses.
During the last calendar year, Cottonwood police gave out 2,149 citations for everything from speeding violations to warnings for cracked windshields.
Knock on wood, but in the event you are pulled over by a Cottonwood police officer, there is a good chance it is for that infraction we’re all guilty of at one time or another: speeding. In all, Cottonwood officers cited people for speeding 586 times in 2018. Those citations covered all of the nine different categories that Arizona law differentiates the varying degrees of driving too fast, but the greatest single number in Cottonwood – 290 – were for those folks driving 11 to 15 miles over the posted speed limit.
“We see a lot of that on State Route 260 and on Mingus Avenue,” said Cottonwood PD Sergeant Monica Kuhlt. “It’s also common in residential areas late at night; it’s easy to drive too fast when there is not a lot of traffic.”
Kuhlt said the more excessive speeding infractions often occur in transition zones. Again, State Route 260 is a real hot spot for these offenses.
“People are used to driving much faster on 260 and they don’t decelerate as soon as they should entering Cottonwood, or to the degree they should,” said Kuhlt. “With these, officers have the discretion to treat it as a civil or criminal offense. If the driver seems remorseful, we often will treat it as a civil offense, which is easier to prove in court. If we go criminal, we have to prove intent. But when they are going 30 or more miles an hour over the speed limit, it’s pretty obvious about their intent.”
Also high up on the list of the most-common citations given by Cottonwood police are those that deal with mandatory auto insurance. There are two categories of violation here. Citations for “failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility” were given out 318 times by Cottonwood PD in 2018, with 130 more citations given for having “no mandatory insurance.”
The former offense, explained Kuhlt, involves those drivers who actually are insured as the law requires, but they can’t provide the documentation for the officer at the time they are pulled over. The latter offense is for those people who flat out are not insured.
“It’s not that they don’t have insurance,” said Kuhlt, “it’s just a failure to provide proof. Everything is electronic these days and it’s often a case of the driver not being able to find their insurance information on their phone. Or, they got it in the mail and forgot to put it in their car. With these, when you go to court and show you do it have it the citation is often dismissed or there would be a minimal fine.
“No mandatory, when they don’t have it or it has been canceled; that’s going to be a much larger fine.”
Stop sign violations
Cottonwood officers handed out 76 stop sign citations in 2018 and Kuhlt said these are the ones that most often prompt the “But officer …” response from drivers.
“We hear every excuse in the book,” said Kuhlt. “They will rationalize that there was no one coming from the other direction. They’ll say they didn’t know there was a stop sign at that particular intersection; that it must be new … ‘When did you put that on there?’ They’ll insist they did stop. You hear it all.”
For whatever reason, stop sign violations frequently happen in Cottonwood and the 12th and Aspen intersection, especially coming either direction on 12th. Ditto for Mingus Avenue and 6th Street, especially west-bound drivers on Mingus Avenue.
Driving Under the Influence
Despite the pronounced efforts to educate over the past 20 years, Kuhlt said people still drink and drive, and sometimes in alarming numbers. Cottonwood police cited and arrested 104 people for DUI offenses and 2018, and gave out four more citations for passengers having open containers in a vehicle.
“There is an ebb and flow to it,” the sergeant explained. “This past Memorial Day weekend, the numbers were up both nationally and statewide, including fatalities. I’m not sure why it rises and falls the way it does. There has been a lot of effort put into education, and the laws have certainly gotten tougher, but we still have those periods of increase.”
What Kuhlt does know, though, is what she has heard directly from those arrested and convicted of DUI offenses. Because of financial impact alone, it is simply not worth the risk to drink and drive.
“Many times I’ve had people tell me they would have preferred to spend more time in jail than to deal with the financial realities of getting a DUI,” said Kuhlt.
Kuhlt said when you consider maximum fines for DUI, attorney costs, court fees, jail expenses, required ignition interlock devices and increased insurance costs, a DUI offense is easily a 5-digit hit on your wallet. “$10,000 to $40,000 in some cases,” Kuhlt said. “People are blown away at the financial burden of it.”
All the more reason, Kuhlt said, “to call Uber, a taxi service or have that committed designated driver.
“A DUI is never worth it.”