Commissioners implement stiffer traffic fine schedule

RBC — Drivers beware, if you are ticketed for a traffic violation in Rio Blanco County, it’s going to cost more now.
Following the state’s lead, county commissioners approved a new traffic fine schedule Oct. 13.
“In July, the state increased all of the fines for traffic violations for the state,” said County Attorney Kent Borchard. “So it made sense to us to increase the model traffic code to stay in line with the state’s. We took their fine schedule, and that’s what the commissioners adopted.”
With one exception. The state’s fine for making an illegal pass is $100, Borchard said. The county decided to make a statement and doubled the amount to $200.
“We need a deterrent,” Borchard said. “That was the only deviation (from the state’s fine schedule). But all of us have been confronted by someone making an illegal pass. It seems to be becoming more a problem.”
The county’s new fine schedule takes effect Nov. 16.
Borchard said there was an issue with slow-moving traffic, due to oversized loads and heavy equipment being transported through the county to the oil and gas fields.
“That causes people to lose patience and pass when they shouldn’t,” Borchard said.
The county is cracking down on dangerous drivers.
As a condition of approval for a special use license for Overland Pass Pipeline Company, the county stipulated the company must implement a zero-tolerance policy and immediate dismissal of an employee who is convicted or pleads guilty to any of the following motor-vehicle offenses: No valid operator’s license, driving under restraint, reckless driving, speeding 20 plus mph over the limit, illegal or improper passing, driving while impaired or driving under the influence.
Jeff Madison, Rio Blanco County natural resource specialist, recommended the change.
“The zero-tolerance COA (condition of approval) is new,” Madison said. “It will be a standard COA on all permits with a commuting workforce.”
In his recommendation to commissioners, Madison wrote: “The county continues to have numerous problems with reckless and illegal driving behavior associated with gas field activities, both in company and personal vehicles.”
Madison said he had experienced the problem firsthand.
“This was highlighted on a site visit on Piceance Creek the day before the planning commission review on Sept. 18,” Madison wrote in his report. “While proceeding northbound on County Road 5 at about 5:30 p.m., I was passed several times, twice on blind corners with double yellow lines, by drivers in welding trucks that were coming out of Barnard Pipeline/ExxonMobil worksites. In discussing this with other county employees, it is clear my experience is not unique. While it is not by any notion only a problem with gas field workers’ driving behavior, there is an obvious increase in dangerous driving incidents involving these drivers.”
Different options for addressing the problem were considered by the planning commission, but Madison said, “The most workable solution seems to be for the companies to establish and clearly explain to their employees a policy of zero-tolerance for dangerous driving behavior.”
Madison said he discussed the zero-tolerance option with commissioners, County Attorney Kent Borchard and Sheriff Si Woodruff.
“With approval (by commissioners), this condition of approval will become a standard addition to all special use permits and licenses,” Madison said.
Commissioners approved the special use permit with the zero-tolerance language at their Oct. 13 meeting.