color side bar  Aggressive Driving
Intro
Sample Press Release
Sample Op-Ed Article
Sample Drop-In News Article
Talking Points
Introduction
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[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 driving—defined 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:

  • Educate the public about situations that precipitate aggressive driving behavior and encourage appropriate responses.
  • Contact different groups to help educate the public and raise awareness, such as insurers and insurance consortiums, educators, the medical community, media outlets, community leaders, church and civic groups, and drivers age 16 to 30—the most common offenders.
  • Support stepped-up police enforcement of traffic safety laws. Penalize violators—especially repeat offenders—to the fullest extent of the law.
  • Develop charging and sentencing guidelines for prosecution and law enforcement; the charging decision can rest with the arresting officer at the misdemeanor level, but should be referred to the prosecutor at the felony level.
  • Pursue more varied and innovative sentencing strategies, including graduated penalties for escalating offenses, probation, possible incarceration, mandatory penalties in certain circumstances, community service, anger management classes, restitution and more.
  • Become an expert on the technology being used to fight aggressive driving, such as radar, laser and auto sensing; share your knowledge with others in law enforcement.
  • Educate legislaters in your state to support aggressive driving legislation in your state to improve funding of prosecutorial efforts, increase fines and penalties, develop state education programs, emphasize seatbelt laws and legislate traffic camera radar devices.
  • Submit op-ed and news articles to your local newspapers; samples are enclosed for your convenience in this kit.

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.