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ISSUE FOUR: Strategy Discussion:  Transforming Traffic Safety to a High Priority

Barriers to making traffic safety a high priority

Law Enforcement barriers

  • Limited resources and officers for traffic safety.
  • Lack of overtime funds.
  • Lack of media interest to publicize enforcement and encourage compliance.

Court barriers

  • Limited court resources for traffic safety.
  • Traffic courts are low in status compared to other courts.
  • Local elected officials often define which cases receive priority attention in the courts.
  • In lower courts, much of the time is spent collecting legislatively mandated fines.
  • In many jurisdictions, court costs are higher than the fines collected and these fines are often not related to traffic cases.
  • Specialized courts are now under fire because of budget crunches.

Prosecution barriers

  • New, less experienced prosecutors are assigned to traffic cases, particularly in larger offices.
  • Prosecution staff often have high turnover rates.

Treatment barriers

  • Lack of available treatment programs, particularly in smaller jurisdictions.  This can limit actions of the court.
Studies have shown that traffic safety is a priority to the public and important to their overall quality of life; yet indications are that the issue is not a high priority for law enforcement departments, prosecutor offices and in the courts.  Participants addressed what prevents traffic safety from becoming a priority issue in their respective disciplines and how this could be changed.  This discussion included some feedback on NHTSA's priorities in impaired driving and how to move information on license histories among the system's components. 

A major outcome of this discussion was that transforming traffic safety to a high priority will take leadership, commitment of resources and the identification and adoption of best practices.

Transforming Traffic Safety to a High Priority

Enforcement

  • Increase training on traffic safety in the academies.
  • Encourage law enforcement leadership to place greater emphasis on traffic safety through departmental incentives such as equipment; however, public perception of this is a factor that must be considered.
  • Implement programs to recognize officers' traffic safety efforts.
  • Be flexible—use what works best for the state and jurisdictions.
  • Get more departments involved with mobilizations.
  • Make a concerted effort to bring the media on board.

Judges and Expansion of DWI/Drug Courts 

  • Convene a national conference, sponsored by NHTSA, on DWI/Drug Courts and how they can help reduce recidivism. 
  • Adopt best practices from drug and other problem solving courts that can be replicated even in local courts where resources may not permit the creation of special courts.  The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) have formed a task force to study and recommend what works in problem solving courts, and how these best practices can be incorporated into general courts.
  • Explore sources of private sector funding for supporting the development of DWI courts in jurisdictions that do not have them.
  • Train judges and court personnel on DWI.  Encourage court personnel to provide feedback on what works to reduce recidivism.
  • Avoid legislation establishing what types of cases should be a high priority for the courts.  Work closely with the elected prosecutor since courts are often reticent to make traffic cases a high priority unless the prosecutor is also on board. 

Training of Special Prosecutors

  • Increase the national dialogue with elected district attorneys and judges on what policies work in traffic safety and the best ways to establish such policies.
  • Establish a state level traffic safety resource prosecutor in each state to help train prosecutors assigned to handle DWI cases and to serve as a cross-jurisdiction and cross-state liaison on traffic safety.

Licensing and Records

  • Avoid linking DMV information systems to enforcement of non traffic-related problems, such as nonpayment of child support or outstanding library fees. 
  • Ensure that driving history information resides in one system.  It is technically feasible to integrate various driving record systems; however, federal funding is needed. 
  • Address delays between court orders and entry of these orders in the data system.  In the state of Wisconsin, this problem has been addressed by using the state court website as a resource for obtaining driving and criminal records.
  • Consider using limited licensing as an incentive in DWI/drug courts to encourage offenders to complete treatment.
  • Develop strategies for addressing those who continue to drive when their licenses have been revoked or suspended.

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