[head:] Answer the Public Outcry: Diffuse Dangerous Drivers
Drivers who routinely speed, run red lights and stop signs, tailgate and otherwise disregard the safety of other motorists are turning our highways into high-risk arenas. Of the approximately 6,800,000 crashes that occur in the United States each year, a substantial number are believed to be caused by aggressive drivingdefined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as "the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property." Statistics compiled in 1997 by NHTSA and the American Automobile Association show that almost 13,000 people have been injured or killed since 1990 in crashes caused by aggressive driving. And while aggressive driving is a combination of traffic offenses, it can easily escalate into the criminal offense known as road rage. We're all too familiar with stories of motorists who've killed or injured other drivers for seemingly trivial reasons.
The public is crying out for relief from this threat they encounter every day. According to a NHTSA survey, more than 60 percent of drivers consider unsafe driving by others, including speeding, a major personal threat to themselves and their families. About 30 percent of respondents said they felt their safety was threatened in the last month, while 67 percent felt this threat during the last year. Weaving, tailgating, distracted drivers, and unsafe lane changes were some of the behaviors identified. A full 98 percent of respondents said it was important that something be done to reduce speeding and unsafe driving.
NHTSA research shows that compliance with, and support for, traffic laws can be increased through aggressive, targeted enforcement combined with a vigorous public information and education program. As a prosecutor with the power and influence to make a significant impact on behalf of concerned citizens, you have many avenues for leading your community in the fight against dangerous drivers:
When Maryland launched its "Aggressive Driver Campaign" in 1995, with an emphasis on public information, education and enforcement, instead of receiving the negative feedback which usually accompanies beefed up enforcement efforts, the media and the public praised the Maryland state police for their efforts. The public's perception was that the police were "out there to catch the other guy." And the program has worked. Fatalities have declined dramatically.
The same can happen in your jurisdiction. Support a zero tolerance policy for aggressive driver violations. Take dangerous motorists out of the driver's seat.