Sheriff, chief deputy talk 2022 traffic unit statistics
With several major highways including 30, 330 and 14 running through Marshall County, the job of patrolling its rural roads can seem like a daunting one. The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office recently shared statistics for its traffic unit in 2022, and Sheriff Joel Phillips and Chief Deputy Ben Veren discussed some of the trends they’ve noticed over the past year.
In basic terms, the unit was responsible for 1,939 traffic stops, 1,737 traffic citations, 1,392 traffic warnings, 58 operating while intoxicated arrests, 351 efforts to assist stranded motorists and the investigation of 156 traffic crashes in 2022.
Along with the 58 OWI arrests, the unit made 72 drug related arrests, 82 driving while barred/revoked/suspended arrests, 17 arrests for outstanding warrants and 17 other non-traffic criminal violation arrests during traffic stops.
Phillips said the numbers were up slightly from years past, and he believes the higher speeds are a statewide trend. He and Veren weren’t entirely sure what the impetus was, but Veren speculated it may have a connection to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of the traffic safety folks think that we really started to see a huge spike during COVID lockdowns, and so we don’t know if there were less vehicles on the roadway during that time frame, if people got used to driving faster, less enforcement happening during those times,” Veren said. “We never changed our enforcement practices here during COVID, but there were a lot of agencies that really cut back on proactive enforcement of traffic laws.”
Veren went on to note that while the efficacy of speed enforcement is often debated, speeding almost always leads to higher fatality rates and can turn innocent bystanders into victims as the chief deputy cited a recent fatal accident in Des Moines attributed to drag racing.
“We want to emphasize to people those high speeds and that dangerous driving, although many times it doesn’t have a direct impact on people or they don’t think it does, it can,” Veren said. “All it takes is somebody driving 100 miles per hour… If they lose control and hit you head on, you’re part of that crash even though you’re doing nothing wrong.”
The traffic unit, Phililps added, does its best to focus on areas where complaints are the most common.
“Hopefully it impacts it enough to eliminate some fatalities or potential for fatalities,” Phillips said.
Throughout 2022, there were only two fatal accidents in the county outside of Marshalltown city limits, and both were later determined to be the result of medical emergencies. And while the number of OWIs was relatively consistent in Marshall County compared to past years, Veren said cases are up nationwide and could also be connected to increased use of alcohol and drugs as a direct consequence of the pandemic.
Traffic enforcement will remain a key priority for the MCSO in 2023, and Phillips said cracking down on drug trafficking will also be near the top of the list. Methamphetamine remains “the biggest problem drug,” and marijuana is second because of the opportunity for profit and the less stringent punishments associated with possession and distribution of the drug. Fentanyl and heroin are beginning to show up more frequently in the area as well.
“We obviously want to address that sooner than later and try to reduce those numbers,” he said.
Phillips and Veren continue to believe high visibility enforcement is the best way to change dangerous driving behaviors, and with Marshall County’s position as a travel hub in central Iowa with several highly-traveled roads, it’s a safe bet they’ll remain busy in 2023.
The MCSO receives an annual grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau that provides funds for enforcement overtime, educational overtime, training, and equipment. One member of the Traffic Unit is tasked as the GTSB Deputy and handles all monthly reporting and submits the grant application annually. Veren was invited to speak at the 2022 Governor’s Traffic Safety Conference to discuss the successes of the Child Passenger Safety Program.
The unit is comprised of Sgt. Louis Modlin, Deputy Jon Rogers, Deputy Blake Paige, Deputy Curtis Cecak, Deputy Tabrina Eggleston, and Deputy Tanner Hunt. In addition to their regular duties, these deputies have made traffic safety a priority in their day-to-day operations.
“The Marshall County Traffic Unit utilizes a three-pronged approach to traffic safety, education, training, and enforcement. It is essential that we look beyond simply issuing citations to have a positive effect on driving behavior,” Modlin said.
Contact Robert Maharry
at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or