Meadville Tribune

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August 31, 2013

Statewide effort puts law enforcers on look out for aggressive drivers

MEADVILLE — Aggressive times called for punitive measures from Crawford County police officers who wrapped up the second wave of the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement and Education Project earlier this month.

The statewide program has participating departments cracking down on drivers violating speed limits and other traffic codes on state roads with high crash rates. Conneaut Lake Regional, West Mead Township and Vernon Township police departments participated in wave two.

“It’s all about public safety,” said Randy Detzel, Vernon Township police chief. “We just want everybody to be safe and have a nice summer so we do our best to target roadways that usually have the most accidents.”

From July 8 to Aug. 15, officers placed special concentration on Routes 322, 98 and 19 — just to name a few.

During each wave, however, any road can be subject to additional enforcement.

Officers mainly look out for speeding, tailgating, improper passing and running red lights.

Anyone requiring proof of these problems can simply park by a busy route such as 322 and watch the traffic, according to Detzel.

“I’ll get people who blast through the red light and tell me they were going too fast to stop,” he said. “The leading cause of crashes are speeding and tailgating because there’s no time to react.”

And officers agree accidents are far worse than citations.

While general accidents are trending downward, state statistics show an increase in the number of aggressive driving crashes, providing incentive for enforcement periods.

Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which funds the enforcement program, reported 6,761 aggressive driving crashes in 2012, an increase from 6,330 in 2011.

More than 190 fatalities resulted from last year’s incidents, up from 168 the year prior.

Officers on the local front, however, report more positive results for their jurisdictions.

“Our traffic crashes have been down about 20 percent since we implemented the program about three years ago,” said Sergeant Bill Broderick of West Mead Township police. “It means we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Broderick called wave two a success, noting a downward trend in speeding and other violations over the years.

“We’re out for a reason,” he said. “We have to keep you safe. We don’t enjoy giving out citations, but it’s part of our job and according to our stats, it’s working.”

As to what part the public can play, officers recommend slowing down, wearing seatbelts and taking into account additional travel time so there’s no rush to a destination.

“Ultimately, the goal is to not have a state program to enforce this stuff,” Broderick said.

Additionally, drivers observing aggressive behaviors can help the cause during enforcement waves as long as they back up their claims.

Police departments are prone to dismissing anonymous statements to avoid pursuing false reports, according to Detzel.

“The public needs to be aware that if they witness a bad maneuver, with registration and proper ID, they must be willing and available to testify,” Detzel said. “Then we will take action.”

With another enforcement wave expected this fall, the public may have another chance to aid officers in the crackdown.

Detzel advises anyone witnessing aggressive driving to pull over safely and write a short paragraph including as many details as possible.

“If possible, include the weather, the time of day, direction of travel, the license plate number and a description of the driver,” he said. “You can never have too many details. More is better.”

Officers can then file a criminal complaint based on the information received.

“Nothing would make me happier than to have no one commit violations and give out no citations,” Detzel said. “But if you break the law, you will be cited.”

Tribune requests for comment from Conneaut Lake Regional Police Chief Todd Pfeifer were unsuccessful.

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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