Breakout Session Findings and Recommendations
Presented by Breakout
The following recommendations and remarks reflect the consolidated comments
of the breakout groups--two per topic area--that met over the course of
the 2-day conference. Twelve groups met on six topics the first day, then
merged into six groups the second day to combine and consolidate their
recommendations under each topic area. Presented in plenary session the
second day, these combined recommendations are summarized below by topic
Heeding the pre-breakout admonition not to get "bogged down"
in trying to define aggressive driving, the combined Statutory Approaches
breakout group modified the NHTSA definition only to provide a context
for its discussions. It defined aggressive driving as "the operation
of a motor vehicle involving three or more moving violations as part of
a single continuous sequence of driving acts, which is likely to endanger
any person or property."
advised that states should look at their own laws to determine whether
they can adequately deal with the aggressive driving problem at both the
misdemeanor (not involving a crash) and felony levels (crash involving
serious injury or death). It felt that most states should consider an
aggressive driving law, if only for its social aspects. Also, states should
examine their laws with the idea of combining offenses to derive a unique
aggressive driving charge as something separate and distinct. The group
felt this was a state and not a Federal issue and should be addressed
by states individually, i.e., states need to come up with their own statutes,
as did Arizona. Other states, like Maryland, do not even have a good reckless
driving law. The group recommended that states consider the following
points when enacting aggressive driving or related statutes:
- Conviction for
an aggressive driving violation should involve a significant number
of points and/or a minimum license suspension.
- Enhanced penalties
should accompany repeat violations or those involving serious injury
- The states and
Federal Government should pass enabling legislation to permit use of
advanced technology for enforcement.
- All states should
implement public information and driver education programs on aggressive
driving, to be taken during prelicense driver education classes and
again prior to license reinstatement. Initial driver training programs
should include aggressive driving and rage management training.
- Steps should be
taken to have the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances--publisher
of the Uniform Vehicle Code--develop a model provision pertaining to
aggressive driving for consideration by the states.
- An analysis should
be prepared and distributed of each state's statutes, both misdemeanor
and felony, that are available to deal with aggressive driving. These
statistics should be compiled and made available to other states.
Highlighting highway construction as a top priority, though not necessarily
a realistic option, the Applied Technology breakout group advocated the
use of photo red light technology for traffic light violations and cited
laser technology as having good possibilities if it is standardized nationally
and accepted by the courts. The group also suggested the use of "tip
lines" as a good public information and prevention tool. These and
its other recommendations follow:
- Investigate the
feasibility of using new laser equipment, currently in use in Europe,
that can measure the distance between approaching vehicles.
This technology may enable law enforcement officers to better enforce
laws against "following too closely." This device will have
to go through the process of establishing its accuracy and reliability
to the satisfaction of police and judicial communities. It will need
to be standardized nationally and accepted into evidence by courts in
order to be effective.
- Promote the wider
use of photo red light enforcement cameras.
This is a proven technology that has achieved public acceptance and
has been shown to reduce crashes. Photo railroad crossing enforcement
was also recommended as a good tool.
- Promote the wider
use of unmanned radar speed display devices.
Some communities find that these machines have a calming effect in
high-traffic speed areas and provide a good preventive measure.
- Expand the use
of observation platforms such as aircraft, in-car video, and other equipment
that aids the apprehension and prosecution of traffic violators who
would otherwise be difficult to contact or to testify about.
These vary in acceptability across the country, and must be accepted
on a regional basis to be helpful.
- Establish "tip
lines" to report aggressive driving. Tip lines allow people to
"get it off their chest" and make for a good public information
and prevention tool.
Some members of the group find tip lines beneficial, in that the
public feels they are contributing to the solution of a perceived problem.
In any event, tip lines are helpful in identifying trouble spots and
can assist in targeting traffic enforcement efforts. [An audience participant
suggested allowing the witnessing driver to start prosecution against
the violating driver via the tip line.]
- Encourage jurisdictions
with 911 systems to add *77 or 311 systems to facilitate handling of
nonemergency traffic-related communications.
- Establish data
links (automated reporting) from traffic officers' reports to the prosecutor's
office, and otherwise facilitate better communications among different
This innovation would improve the speed and accuracy of officers'
citations and complaints and would assist in the discovery process.
- Promote the use
of electronic report writing.
This technology promises to speed up citation and report processing,
improve accuracy, and reduce duplicative effort, and is therefore more
time- and cost-efficient. For instance, driving under the influence
(DUI) arrests require the completion of multiple forms containing much
common information, which would be entered only once. This technology
includes "smart licenses."
- Create or adopt
crash reconstruction software.
The software could be placed on the Internet for all to access. It
would have to be standardized to elicit recognition and value from the
court system. This approach would provide for cheaper, quicker, and
more accurate crash reconstruction reporting and may remove periodic
- Explore the use
of variable speed limit signs.
These signs would allow the speed limit to be changed remotely and
quickly to accommodate changing traffic conditions. (FHWA soon will
conduct a project using this technology.)
- Encourage communities
to take advantage of computer-based distance learning and other techniques,
particularly given the national trend away from expensive, school-based
driver education programs.
Driver education is declining across the country, and the Nation's
kids are suffering because of it. Through technology, distance learning
could help fill in gaps caused by budget cuts.
- Promote ITS technology
for its congestion relief benefits. Better roadway management will reduce
congestion and frustration and related aggressive driving behaviors.
The Charging Decisions breakout group used the NHTSA definition of aggressive
driving to guide its discussions. The group felt that no new statute was
needed to deal with aggressive driving violations, as they are already
covered by reckless driving laws. It called, instead, for written guidelines
for use by prosecutors and law enforcement personnel in charging and disposing
of aggressive driving cases. It also advocated education for law enforcement,
prosecutors, and judges, to raise awareness of the aggressive driving
issue. The group made the following additional recommendations:
- The definition
of aggressive driving should be included under reckless driving statutes
and not broadened so as to narrow the definition of reckless driving.
Aggressive driving per NHTSA's definition refers to reckless behavior
and wanton disregard for other people. In states requiring legislative
action, the aggressive driving behavior should be added to the reckless
driving statute. In states that do not require legislative action, the
term aggressive driving should be included on the charging document.
The burden of proof for this offense should not require specific intent.
Possible resolution of the decision to charge aggressive driving
behavior as reckless could be determined by classification as Reckless
I, Reckless II, etc., going from a misdemeanor to a felony, similar
to Manslaughter I and II.
- Aggressive driving
behavior should be a criminal (jailable) act and not a civil infraction.
Handled as a civil case, it is too easy for aggressive driving cases
to slip through the cracks. These cases could miss review by a prosecuting
attorney and appearance in front of a judge, with negative social consequences.
Recordkeeping and data entry would also be better.
- Written guidelines
for prosecution and law enforcement should be developed by the prosecutor's
office. Guidelines would provide uniformity and consistency with law
enforcement officers in charging and disposing of cases.
- Law enforcement
should provide detailed infromation to prosecutors and prosecutors to
judges, along with the citation/charging document. This approach will
assist prosecutors in exercising discretion in the charging and disposition
Detailed investigative reports can either strengthen the prosecution
of the case or provide the necessary information for an amended or reduced
guilty plea where appropriate. This additional detailed information
will also allow judges to more appropriately sentence convicted defendants.
There might be a case, for example, where an elderly or inattentive
driver is driving recklessly under a technical definition of aggressive
driving--though for reasons totally incongruous with an aggressive driving
charge. Pre-trial diversion should remain an option when appropriate.
- Heightened awareness
of the aggressive driving issue must be accomplished through professional
education of law enforcement, prosecution, and judges.
Perhaps similar success could be achieved for aggressive driving
as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) achieved for impaired driving
- Because of the
consequences or potential consequences of aggressive driving, it should
have a high priority among law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges.
Priority can be elevated through securing additional grant funding
and through education and training for prosecutors and judges.
- The charging decision
can rest with the arresting officer at the misdemeanor level but should
be referred to the prosecutor at the felony level. The initial discretion
should stay with the charging police officer.
This breakout group felt that sentencing strategies should accomplish
both traditional and nontraditional sentencing objectives. The critical
question to consider is whether punishment of aggressive driving would
best be accomplished through civil or criminal penalties and what the
ramifications would be in each case. Whether civil or criminal, it is
first necessary to determine how the charge would govern the sentence
imposed in each case. While the breakout group was split over the civil
versus criminal question, three-quarters believed it should be the prerogative
of the officer and the prosecutor, based on the seriousness of the charge.
Ninety-five percent of the group believed that if charged as a civil infraction,
the aggressive driving offender should still have to face a judge in court.
The group's findings, beginning with sentencing objectives, are summarized
objectives include the following:
- Punishment or retribution.
general (i.e., public) and specific (i.e., offender), for the violator
and society in general.
- Protection of the
(getting the driver off the road, perhaps by incapacitating the vehicle).
- Consistency (demonstrating
- Treating individuals
fairly, e.g., not allowing people to "buy their way out."
- Fundraising (e.g.,
through surcharges). An aggressive driving charge should not be used
to raise funds for the public coffers.
- Moving cases. The
sentence should be conducive to moving cases through the court system
and preventing backups.
- Judicial job security
(public perception of judicial decisions). We do not want to turn judges
into legislatively mandated "ogres" and, conversely, we do
not want to prevent them from sentencing because of public opinion.
- Creating a perception
that specific consequences follow certain actions.
the offense as criminal will:
- Clog the court
system with jury trials.
- Require appointment
of public defenders. This will impact county and city budgets.
- Impose a criminal
conviction on the offender.
options that give judges flexibility are the best and should provide for
- Withholding adjudication
or expungement of conviction.
- Graduated penalties
for first, second, and multiple offenders.
- Probation, so judges
can maintain control over offenders.
- Possibility of
incarceration, at the option of the prosecutor or charging officer.
- Enhancement of
penalties for repeat offenders and mandatory penalties in certain circumstances,
at the discretion of states or legislators.
- Community service,
with pre-plea and post-plea options available.
- Education: Require
people to complete certain types of treatment programs, such as the
- anger management,
- driver improvement,
- victim impact panels,
- alcohol/substance abuse, and
- evaluation and counseling.
- Driver's license
suspension and revocation, particularly effective with young males.
- Restrictions placed
on driver's licenses as a way for the court to maintain control over
- Impoundment or
immobilization for repeat offenders, through such means as "clubbing"
or "booting" vehicles.
- Letters of apology
written to those victimized by aggressive driving.
in which offense is charged governs sentencing strategy available:
- Half the group
believed that aggressive driving should be charged as a criminal offense.
- Half believed that
it should be charged as a civil (noncriminal) offense.
- Seventy-five percent
agreed that it should be the prerogative of the prosecutor/officer to
charge aggressive driving as a civil or criminal offense.
- Ninety-five percent
agreed that if charged as a civil infraction, the alleged offender should
be required to appear before a judge rather than simply mail in a fine.
Following the presentation of recommendations from the Sentencing Strategies
breakout group, co- presenter Judge Karl B. Grube fielded questions from
Did anyone bring up the twist on the Immigration law, i.e., that conviction
may bring deportation?
A. No, but it's a good question to consider.
How do you impose probation without the offense being criminal?
A. You do not give the option of criminal versus civil to the prosecutor.
A. There could be aspects of a civil case where you require people
to do probation-type activities to take off points and/or complete "fixes"--as
with child restraint offenses that can be mitigated by showing proof of
purchase of a car seat.
As judges, would you prefer to see a defendant's driving record before
A. Yes, judges need to see a sentencing report as a prerequisite
The Community Leadership breakout group derived the following recommendations
affecting several aspects of community leadership, including enforcement,
education, message, delivery of message, and resources.
the community, i.e., the citizenry, can influence executive decisions
to make enforcement a higher priority. This approach involves the community,
heightens awareness, and results in better compliance. A campaign to increase
public awareness can be combined with stiff penalties (e.g., mandatory
sentences) for aggressive driving, incorporating lessons learned from
DUI campaigns. Uniform enforcement is the key to having an effective statute.
Public support can be gained from giving aggressive driving messages a
"human face." Victims have a great impact, and all PSAs should
show results of noncompliance. Overlooked constituencies that need to
get the aggressive driving message include church-goers, soon-to-be drivers,
and commercial drivers.
- Identify additional
groups for education on aggressive driving issues so they can help "get
the word out." These include the following:
- Insurers and insurance consortiums--could elicit the involvement of
health insurers as well, with municipalities.
- Educators. Aggressive driving behavior involves a personality issue
to be brought to educators' attention. School-based educational efforts
can be started earlier, with 6-9 year olds. Driver education programs
in high schools should be restored as well.
- Law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges. Judges should be educated
on the importance of traffic enforcement and encouraged to consider
the significant impact that aggressive drivers have on the quality of
life in communities. It is imperative to create public support for what
law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges can do to address this problem.
- Medical Community. Energize the medical community to make aggressive
driving a public health and community issue, as with impaired driving.
- Entertainment. Encourage people to make complaining calls to television
shows that glorify and glamorize crashes and chases so as to educate
the industry on the seriousness of aggressive driving, which tend to
get trivialized in the name of entertainment.
- Advertising. Advertisers need to learn to portray vehicles in a more
realistic way, so as not to inadvertently encourage aggressive driving
with vehicles designed less for mountains than roads, despite the send-up.
- Community-oriented policing. People need to empower the police in
their communities by telling them that they need local law enforcement.
- Media and message. Innovative media and other strategies are needed
to reach the high-risk population of 16-20 year olds. We must think
differently and encourage media strategies that target the right group
with the right message. Different media markets should be sought. Public
television and radio spots reach wider audiences than newspaper op-eds,
- Churches and civic groups. Churches and community-based groups should
be made aware of the potentially valuable role they can play in raising
awareness, particularly to young drivers, of the dangers of driving
aggressively. Churches can also be used to reinforce the moral obligation
to be a courteous driver.
- Clear and uniform.
We must define the message better and clearly state what aggressive
driving is. The message should be cast in "real" terms, not
- Localized. While
the basic aggressive driving message should be uniform, it should also
be adaptable to meet the needs of a particular region, e.g., a different
message may be needed for urban versus rural drivers.
- Financial cost.
Attention to aggressive driving would help to reduce crashes and thereby
decrease social costs, workers' compensation costs, etc. Advocates must
have statistics ready.
- Personalized. Victims
are willing to participate in programs. Victim involvement is a good
part of an outreach strategy.
- Public transportation.
Develop more alternatives to driving a car. Talk to public officials
and legislators. Know who is in power and talk to the right people.
- Principal's committee.
Bring everyone to the table who is involved in traffic enforcement,
e.g., county executives, chiefs of police, prosecutors, etc.
- Speaker's bureau.
Assemble and have available a pool of qualified speakers able to articulately
and convincingly address the subject of aggressive driving at particular
events, as requested.
- Publicity. Solicit
opportunities to get the message out to the community.
- Innovative programs.
Art contests, savings bonds, scholarship offerings, grants, etc., are
examples of innovative awareness-raising strategies. Call a local television
station and radio to publicize the event and get the message out.
- Video, print, speaker's
kit. Readily available resources are needed to help judges and others
speak in the community. Busy prosecutors could have a stock speech on
hand, along with other materials adaptable to specific audiences.
- National clearinghouse.
A clearinghouse could assist the collection of innovative ideas.
- Training materials.
Training materials are needed to sensitize judges and to help prosecutors
and law enforcement investigate and articulate aggressive driving concerns--so
as to best put on the evidence. Adequate Federal Government funding
on a national level is needed for this type of training initiative.
The Enforcement Strategies breakout group stressed that enforcement must
be done with other parts of government. The group also encouraged the
provision of Federal funds for programs at the state level and the establishment
of one national standardized number for cellular phone users to report
aggressive driving violations. To further extend the capabilities of law
enforcement, the group advocated the use of red light cameras and encouraged
multijurisdictional enforcement efforts among agencies. Its recommendations
are summarized below:
- Encourage citizen
involvement through the use of cellular phones and one nationwide, standardized
number. One way to follow up on calls received would be to send a letter
to the registered owner of the vehicle advising the owner of the complaint;
other letters could be sent based on the number of complaints received
or other criteria. Another follow-up possibility is to send an officer
out to intercept the driver. Educate the public about recommended behavior
when following someone they are reporting. This system allows law enforcement
to use the eyes and ears of the public, and also allows the public to
vent when they experience aggressive driving behavior. Local jurisdictions
would be encouraged to have officers respond, if possible, or to educate
- Use red light cameras
as a means of extending the capabilities of law enforcement.
- Encourage multijurisdictional
enforcement efforts among agencies. There is strength in numbers; agencies
can share concerns, solutions, technology, and the media.
- Make Federal grant
monies available to jurisdictions that encourage legislation permitting
the use of technology to fight aggressive driving.
- Encourage the use
of computer technology in officer cars. The development and acquisition
of on-site information sources for police officers is a good idea and
would give officers access to driver's license histories and to a database
listing previous vehicle stops. This capability, developed through mobile
data terminals and corresponding databases, could help identify chronic
- Utilize variable
message signs to advise the motoring public of congestion, delays, and
crashes, as well as detours and alternate routes. When no emergency
situation exists, the signs could inform the public of positive, safe
- Encourage policymakers
to establish aggressive driving as a priority by starting at the top
and within law enforcement itself. CEOs within law enforcement agencies
are the "generals" who decide which battles they will fight.
Lawmakers, prosecutors, judicial officials, and others should also adopt
aggressive driving as a priority issue.
- Provide Federal
funds in the form of local grants to support innovative initiatives
submitted by law enforcement entities. These initiatives should address
aggressive driving through the application of creative or nontraditional
- Mandate training
for criminal justice practitioners on the technology being used to fight
aggressive driving; i.e. radar, laser, auto sensing.
- Educate the public
about situations that precipitate aggressive driving behavior and encourage
appropriate responses. Voluntary compliance cannot be achieved solely
by enforcement. Calming techniques, along with better reaction techniques,
need to be communicated and shared with the public. It would serve the
cause to get people help when they come to court on an aggressive driving
Following his presentation of recommendations by the Enforcement Strategies
breakout group, Sergeant Bud Dulaney of the Prince William County Police
Department took questions from the audience.
Are you suggesting there be mandatory training for officers at the local
level on the elements of enforcing the law or on the use and capabilities
of advanced technologies?
Comment: I (IACP representative) have a strong objection to mandatory
training at the local level, and want my opposition on the record.