OK, May came and went, and I’m not sure if that was spring or still winter. Now June is upon us, and I’m almost positive it is summer.
After living in La Plata County for almost 20 years, I have to say that summer is my favorite time to be around the San Juans. The rivers and streams are swollen with snowmelt, the mountains are green and the days are long – the perfect combination for outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies of all kinds to enjoy what Durango has to offer.
It’s also the perfect time to forget that rules still apply, and respecting others is the key to continued enjoyment of all that is offered. It only takes a few bad experiences to paint an entire group with a broad brush. It goes from “Hey, there are a few inner-tubers drinking and causing problems” to “Hey, every river user is a drunken jerk who likes to pee on my property and flip me the bird when confronted.”
The police department steps up enforcement efforts and concentrates resources to help quell some of these issues during the summer. The most noticeable and visible efforts are walking patrol in the central business district and bike patrol at all the parks, river trails, bike trails and raft put-ins.
Walking-patrol officers concentrate on keeping bicycles and skateboards off the sidewalks, helping business owners, addressing panhandlers, enforcing the no-open-containers law and addressing loud mufflers on automobiles and motorcycles.
Bike-patrol officers concentrate on the no-open-containers law, obnoxious boaters or river users, loitering, parking problems, congestion at the raft put-ins and urinating in public.
Traffic safety is another big concern for the police department during the summer months. Traffic increases as tourists often drive to Durango for their vacations. And while they are here, they drive many places to enjoy what is here.
With this increased traffic comes increased frustration, especially when we also have road construction projects happening at the same time. Patience is the key to a safe commute during these times. Give yourself some extra time to get to your destination, knowing you probably will encounter a lost tourist, road construction or a cyclist along the way.
That probably is the most difficult thing for any driver to practice. I’ve found myself yelling at the driver in front of me, and I’m sure you have, too. I’ve seen many frustrated drivers. Being frustrated behind the wheel usually leads to making poor decisions and driving in an unsafe manner.
For many, alcohol and summer also seem to go hand in hand. I can’t think of many special events downtown that don’t have some type of alcohol in the venue. Driving under the influence becomes a priority for the police department, and not just during the summer months.
You’ve probably heard from someone that the Durango Police Department focuses only on arresting drunken drivers. While that is not our only focus, it is one of our priorities for traffic safety. We average between 300 and 400 DUI arrests per year.
Driving under the influence kills, injures and maims innocent people every day across this country which is why we take it so seriously. And you should, too. Please don’t get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s a big deal, and chances are we will stop you.
Having fun during the summer is your mission and ours, too. Just remember to follow the rules and respect others so your stories are filled with fun memories instead of handcuffs, jail cells or citations.
Lt. Ray Shupe is assistant operations division commander with the Durango Police Department.