Picayune Police crack down on illegal lane usage

Published 2:17 pm Friday, October 10, 2008

Just like every morning for past few months, early morning drivers heading out to work met with a large amount of congestion and some found it hard to resist using that empty turn lane to expedite their commute.

Thursday morning the decision to use the center turn lane on U.S. 11 to get to Mississippi 43 North faster earned them a citation.

Anticipating the impending violation frenzy, five Picayune Police officers set up on Stemwood Drive early Thursday morning to catch the traffic transgressors.

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Lt. Chad Dorn said their work that morning netted the department 27 improper lane use citations. Dorn said most motorists knew that their little shortcut was in fact illegal. One motorist also was issued an out of state tag citation during that crack down.

A number of motorists who obeyed the traffic laws slowed, rolled down their windows and thanked Dorn for enforcing the law.

The problem has been long standing, ever since the turn lane was added to U.S. 11 by the Mississippi Department of Transpiration a couple of years ago. That lane runs from the entrance of Hide-A-Way Lake to the intersection of U.S. 11 and Miss. 43N. Dorn said he has received reports of people recently using that lane as a travel lane all the way from Mickey’s II to the intersection of U.S. 11 and Miss. 43N, which is estimated to be almost a mile in length.

That practice has caused a number of accidents in the last 90 days, or nine to be exact, Dorn said.

“I’m tired of almost getting into an accident every day. I really think it’s because people are sitting in traffic every day when they really don’t have to,” local motorist Susan Fradella said.

During that 90 days, 47 citations have been written for the same offense, excluding the 27 citations issued Thursday morning.

Accidents usually occur as the hurried driver is traveling along the turn lane heading for the busy intersection and others attempt to use the turn lane to enter one of the number of businesses in the area.

“I’ve watched them meet almost head on,” said Police Chief Jim Luke. “I’m pleading with people only to use that as a turn lane ’cause somebody is going to be seriously hurt or even killed.”

The majority of the accidents occur as motorists are attempting to leave Acorn Road between McDonald’s and Gutherie’s to head north on U.S. 11.

Fradella saw the department’s operation Thursday morning. She thinks the cause of the congestion, and the reason so many motorists use the turn lane to cut through it, has to do with the new timing of the traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Miss. 43N.

Since the change in the light timing, Fradella’s morning commute now takes twice as long. What used to take her 12 to 14 minutes now takes her 20 to 30 minutes, she said. At times she has seen traffic backed up to the Coast Electric office.

“I just think people are sick of sitting there… If they would shorten the (red) light people wouldn’t have to use the turning lane as a driving lane. The traffic doesn’t flow smoothly anymore.” Fradella said.

Dorn said he is going to contact MDOT to ask for assistance to solve the problem but had not been able to get in touch with them as of Thursday.