5 - Delaware State Police - 
Delaware

SITE DESCRIPTION

The State of Delaware is located on the eastern seaboard, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland create Delaware's land-side borders. Delaware is the second smallest state in the nation, with a total area of 1,982 square miles, and ranks 46th among states in population. In 1999, Delaware reported a population of 753,538 persons and 552,005 licensed drivers. Figure 19 below shows the steady increase in population and licensed drivers in Delaware from 1990 to 1999.

Figure 19: Delaware Population/Licensed Drivers, 1990-1999

Figure 19: Delaware Population/Licensed Drivers, 1990-1999d

The chief industries in Delaware include agriculture, manufacturing, mining and the fishing industry. The state's median household income is $37,345.

LEA DESCRIPTION

The Delaware State Police have approximately 585 sworn officers responsible for general law enforcement throughout the State. In 1940, the Bureau of Accident Prevention and Traffic Control was established. Responsible for accident investigation and other roadway safety issues, this department has evolved through the years and now exists as the Delaware State Police Traffic Section. This unit is comprised of eight sworn officers, six of whom are assigned to the special Truck Enforcement Unit (TEU) and the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP).

This Traffic Section works closely with the patrol units of each of eight Troops on all traffic enforcement. The Traffic Section coordinates information on crashes, arrests and citations, providing the pertinent data to each Troop. This information allows each Troop to focus on those areas of enforcement that need attention. The Delaware State Police currently use both radar and laser in their traffic enforcement and the department is currently trying to re-establish aircraft enforcement. Certain state police vehicles are equipped with video equipment.

The Traffic Section also is responsible for the allocation of grant funds to each Troop. Any Troop that designs or organizes a specific program to target one of their problem areas of traffic enforcement can approach the Traffic Section for supplemental funds. This unit also organizes overtime enforcement several times a year, at major holidays, including Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.

The Traffic Section is very active in the educational side of traffic enforcement and has been effective in helping legislation move through the Delaware State government. Within the past year, an aggressive driving law was passed, which brings harsher penalties to drivers who commit three or more dangerous moving violations within close proximity to other vehicles. This law is enforced by all Delaware law enforcement agencies, including all county and municipal departments. (Citation figures are not yet available.) Currently, the Traffic Section is assisting in seeking the passage of a primary safety belt law. At the present time, there is only a secondary safety belt law in Delaware, meaning law enforcement officers may cite drivers and passengers for not wearing safety belts only if the vehicle has been stopped for some other reason. The proposed primary safety belt law has been approved by the House, but is waiting for Committee approval in the Senate. Similarly, a bill supported by the Delaware State Police Traffic Section calling for a legal BAC limit of .08 for the DWI offense also is in a Senate Committee, after having passed through the House by a unanimous vote.

TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT TRENDS

Project staff received monthly breakdowns by citation for 1996-1998 from the Delaware State Police. Yearly totals for all traffic-related citations without any breakdowns were received for 1988-1995. These numbers are displayed in figures later in this section.

The monthly breakdowns contained the number of citations issued for each of the following violations:

Table 4: Types of Delaware Traffic Citations
Citation Title, Section
Driving while license suspended/revoked (Title 21, Section 2756)
Driving too fast for conditions (Title 21, Section 4168)
Speeding (Title 21, Section 4169)
Reckless Driving (Title 21, Section 4175)
Driving under the influence (Title 21, Section 4177)
Leaving the scene of a traffic crash (Title 21, Section 4201, 4202)
Failure to stop at a stop sign (Title 21, Section 4164a)
Disregard traffic control device (Title 21, Section 4107a)
Limitations on turning around (Title 21, Section 4153)
Passing in opposite direction/ left & right shoulders / no passing zones (Title 21, Section 4115-4120)
Overtaking a school bus (Title 21, Section 4166d)
Failure to recognize flashing red control (Title 21, Section 4110)
Failure to yield at yield sign (Title 21, Section 4164b)
Right of way violations (Title 21, Section 4130-4136 & Section 4165)
Seat belt assessments - secondary violation (Title 21, Section 4802)
Child restraint (Title 21, Section 4803)

For the three years for which the number of monthly speeding citations were received, it appears there were seasonal variations with more citations issued for speeding violations during the warmer months (Figure 20). There was a larger number of speeding citations written in July of 1998 (4,381) than in any other month. Conversations with our contact at the Delaware State Police revealed that grant monies are used for stepped up enforcement during the summer months, particularly in July. He could not say, however, why there were so many more citations written during the month of July in 1998 than had been written during any July in previous years.

Figure 20: Delaware State Police - Monthly Speeding Citations, 1996-1998

Figure 20: Delaware State Police - Monthly Speeding Citations, 1996-1998d

When we look at these same yearly totals, as seen in Figure 21, we see that the numbers of speeding citations issued increased from 1996 to 1998.

Figure 21: Delaware State Police - Yearly Speeding Citations Issued 1996-1998

Figure 21: Delaware State Police - Yearly Speeding Citations Issued 1996-1998d

Although the monthly pattern of citations issued for safety belt violations (a secondary offense in Delaware) is not as clear, it appears this category of citations increased slightly from 1996 to 1998 (Figure 22).

Figure 22: Delaware State Police - Monthly Safety Belt Violations, 1996-1998

Figure 22: Delaware State Police - Monthly Safety Belt Violations, 1996-1998d

Again, there was a spike during July 1998 and again the increase in the number of citations issued is confirmed when we look at the yearly totals in Figure 23. The smaller number of child restraint citations showed a much smaller increase in both figures.

Figure 23: Delaware State Police - Yearly Safety Belt Violations, 1996-1998

Figure 23: Delaware State Police - Yearly Safety Belt Violations, 1996-1998d

Next, we examined citations issued for violations relating to driving while impaired, and driving while license was suspended/revoked in Figure 24.

Figure 24: Delaware State Police - Monthly DWI/DWLS Citations, 1996-1998

Figure 24: Delaware State Police -
Monthly DWI/DWLS Citations, 1996-1998d

This time a spike appears for DWLS (driving while license suspended or revoked) violations, appearing earlier in the year and over a three-month period, during January through March 1998. When we look at the yearly totals below (Figure25), we see the number of arrests for DWI fell slightly from 3,404 in 1997 to 3,288 in 1998, while DWLS arrests increased slightly.

Figure 25: Delaware State Police - Yearly DWI/DWLS Citations, 1996-1998

Figure 25: Delaware State Police -
Yearly DWI/DWLS Citations, 1996-1998d

Finally, the figure below (Figure 26) depicts all traffic-related citations by year from 1988 through 1998. While there was a decline during the early 1990s, the total numbers of citations issued rebounded to the higher levels achieved during the late 1980s to 1990. Again, our contact at the Delaware State Police was not aware of any budgetary cuts or changes in policy which might have resulted in the decline.

Figure 26: Delaware State Police - Total Traffic Citations, 1988-1998

Figure 26: Delaware State Police -
Total Traffic Citations, 1988-1998d

SUMMARY

After a fairly steady decline in the numbers of traffic citations (all types combined) written by the Delaware State Police from 1990 to 1996, the total numbers increased during 1997 and 1998, to almost reach the 1990 level. Conversations with individuals from the Department conveyed a firm commitment to maintaining the upward trend which began in 1997. The number of licensed drivers has increased over that period of time, thus the citation rate per licensed driver was somewhat lower in 1998 than in 1990. State police personnel are not aware of any policy, funding, or personnel issues that are likely to explain the fluctuation in the citation volume or rate.