2.2 High-Visibility Enforcement
Use: † Use is low for aggressive driving, but use of short-term, HVE campaigns for speeding is more widespread Low-Medium
Use is low for aggressive driving, but use of short-term, HVE campaigns for speeding is more widespread Time: Medium
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has been examined in several research studies. Overall, the findings regarding countermeasure effectiveness are inconclusive. While some studies suggest that high-visibility, anti-speeding and aggressive driving enforcement campaigns produce some safety-related benefits, other comparable studies show no benefits or even negative outcomes.
High-visibility enforcement campaigns have been used to deter speeding and aggressive driving through both specific and general deterrence. In the HVE model, law enforcement targets selected high-crash or high-violation geographical areas using either expanded regular patrols or designated aggressive driving patrols. This model is based on the same principles as high-visibility seat belt and alcohol-impaired-driving enforcement: to convince the public that speeding and aggressive driving actions are likely to be detected and that offenders will be arrested and punished (see the Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving chapter, Sections 2.1 and 2.2, and the Seat Belts and Child Restraints chapter, Section 2.1).
In the HVE model, officers focus on drivers who commit common aggressive driving actions such as speeding, following too closely, and running red lights. Enforcement is publicized widely. The strategy is very similar to saturation patrols directed at alcohol-impaired drivers (the Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving chapter, Section 2.2). Because speeding and aggressive driving are moving violations, officers cannot use checkpoints. Rather, they must observe driving behavior on the road.
NHTSA’s Aggressive Driving Enforcement: Strategies for Implementing Best Practices (NHTSA, 2000) provides brief descriptions of 12 aggressive driving enforcement programs from around the country. A few examples:
- The Albuquerque, New Mexico, Safe Streets program used saturation patrols in four high-crash and high-crime areas, writing tickets when infractions were observed. At about the midpoint of the program, traffic enforcement focus was shifted from the high crime neighborhoods to high crash corridors and intersections. On freeways, they observed speeding and aggressive driving from a “cherry picker” platform and radioed to patrol officers. See Stuster (2001) for more information including some measures of program effects.
- The greater Washington, DC, area multi-agency Smooth Operator program used shared publicity and coordinated enforcement waves with marked and unmarked patrol vehicles as well as nontraditional vehicles. See this program brochure for more specifics. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/ref_mats/fhwasa09028/resources/Smooth%20Operator%20Brochure.pdf
- The Washington State Patrol’s Enforcement Target Zero Program involves State troopers, county sheriff’s deputies, and city and tribal police officers collaborating to focus on those violations proven to cause fatal or serious injury collisions. The program uses mapping to target resources and experienced officers and training on completing investigations and arrest reports to assist with prosecution. See Thomas et al. (2015) for more information.
See a few other examples of high-visibility speed and aggressive driving enforcement programs in GHSA’s Survey of the States: Speeding and Aggressive Driving (Sprattler, 2012), and NHTSA’s Aggressive Driving Programs (NHTSA, 2001b).
Use: High-visibility speed enforcement campaigns are common, with most States providing some funding for speed equipment (47 States and Guam), overtime enforcement (42 States and Guam), or speed public information campaigns (31 States and Guam) (Sprattler, 2012). Relatively few States fund aggressive driving-related equipment or enforcement (6 States; Sprattler, 2012) and it is likely that high-visibility aggressive driving enforcement campaigns are not common. Neuman, Pfefer, Slack, Hardy, Raub, et al. (2003, Strategy A1) provide a few examples of aggressive driving enforcement programs.
Effectiveness: Moon and Hummer (2010) estimated that 8 to 9% of the total and injury crash reduction effects of around 25% associated with an automated mobile, speed enforcement program in Charlotte, North Carolina, were attributable to media coverage of the program. In addition to results from automated camera enforcement programs (see Section 2.1), which typically incorporate a significant amount of publicity and media coverage (see section 4.1), some crash-based effectiveness evidence comes from NHTSA demonstrations in three communities. All three demonstrations lasted 6 months and included extensive publicity but differed in other respects. Milwaukee was the most successful. Red-light running decreased at targeted intersections. Crashes in the city dropped by 12% in targeted corridors and by 2% in comparison corridors (McCartt et al., 2001). The Indianapolis demonstration was not a success. Average speeds dropped slightly. Total crashes increased 32% over the previous year. Crashes increased more in the demonstration area than in other areas, and the proportion of crashes involving aggressive driving behaviors also increased in the demonstration areas (Stuster, 2004). Tucson had mixed results. Average speeds dropped moderately. Total crashes increased 10% in the demonstration areas and decreased in comparison areas. However, the proportion of crashes involving aggressive driving behaviors decreased by 8% in the demonstration areas.
Several studies have reported reductions in crashes or reductions in speeding or other violations attributed to both general and targeted high-visibility speed enforcement campaigns. Although the evidence is not conclusive, the trends are promising. These efforts have included a substantial increase in general traffic enforcement in Fresno, California (Davis et al., 2006), and a community-based, high-visibility speed enforcement campaign, entitled Heed the Speed, in the Phoenix, Arizona, area that aimed to reduce pedestrian crashes and injuries (Blomberg & Cleven, 2006). No particular publicity measures were noted for the Fresno campaign, but it is likely that the increase from 20 to 84 traffic patrol officers, the addition of 20 new police motorcycles and radar guns, and more than 3-fold increase in citations in 2 years generated some publicity. Publicity measures for the Heed the Speed campaign included street and yard signs, educational material and active participation of neighborhood groups. Speed reductions were greatest in neighborhoods where new vertical traffic calming measures were also installed (Blomberg & Cleven, 2006; also see a Traffic Tech summary, NHTSA, 2006).
An effort to scale-up the Heed the Speed program to 6 (out of 25 total) police districts in Philadelphia, met with limited success and some challenges. There were both unique challenges, including State legal restrictions on the use of radar for issuing citations, and other challenges, which the planned use of a new speed enforcement technology was unable to overcome. These other challenges such as competing law enforcement priorities, equipment loss, funding limitations, difficulty engaging public involvement, and gaining message penetration that were experienced in Philadelphia may also be challenges in other large cities. Even without increases in speeding citations, however, there were decreasing trends in percentages of speeders on 17 of 24 streets over the 3 years of the program, especially on the streets that received a type of engineering treatment– three-dimensional painted markings that simulate traffic calming devices. Other treatments included ensuring appropriate posting of limits, message-oriented signs with and without speed limit reminders along the roadways, and flyers and other outreach. See also Section 4.1 Communications and Outreach in Support of Enforcement for more information.
A 2008 test of a 4-week, HVE campaign along a 6-mile corridor with a significant crash history in London, England, found significant reductions in driver speeding in the enforced area. There was also a halo effect up to two weeks following the end of the campaign (Walter et al., 2011). A crash-based analysis was not conducted. The campaign was covered by print media as well as by billboards and active messaging along the enforced corridor.
High-visibility model programs to target specific aggressive driving actions around large trucks have also been undertaken in several States. The program, known as TACT (Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks) is modeled on the Click It or Ticket belt use campaigns. An evaluation found promising results in reducing the number of targeted violations as the program was implemented in Washington State; effects on crashes or injuries were not determined (Nerup et al., 2006; Thomas et al., 2008). The TACT program was also used in Michigan. The evaluation of this program by Kostyniuk et al. (2014) indicates that TACT messages reminding drivers of the slogan “Leave More Space for Trucks” were successfully received with 40% of drivers being aware of the slogan. However, given the awareness of this slogan, behaviors of both light vehicle drivers did not change when driving around trucks. An unusual part of this implementation of the TACT program was the visibility of two of four police vehicles at one time in a relatively small geographical location. From a specific deterrence perspective, because drivers generally revert back to the “old behaviors” once a police car passes by, having a second police car available to follow up once drivers think they can revert back to unsafe behavior increases the likelihood that these violators can be apprehended.
In summary, the evaluation evidence suggests that high-visibility, anti-speeding and aggressive driving enforcement campaigns have promise, but safety benefits are far from guaranteed. Given challenges in administering police enforcement resources, one approach to develop a sustainable and effective campaign may be to randomly target low levels of conspicuous enforcement on an unpredictable basis to a larger share of network roads that account for a significant majority of injury crashes on the entire network (Newstead et al., 2001). Such a program may warrant expanding enforcement coverage to many more roads in a jurisdiction to increase network-wide deterrence. In Queensland, Australia, the Random Road Watch enforcement program aims explicitly to cover a large portion of the road network where serious crashes occur, not just crash black spots, by randomly targeting police enforcement for two hour periods from 6 a.m. to midnight using marked, parked police vehicles. Significant reductions in fatal and all crashes were estimated for the enforced zones that translated into statewide reductions of 12% in all severity of crashes and 15% of the State’s fatal road crashes (including non-metro areas). No additional publicity was undertaken; it is unknown how much free publicity the program generated.
Other methods making use of enforcement time halos such as enforcing a corridor or other area for up to 4 weeks as described earlier, and then rotating the enforcement to another zone could also be used to maximize enforcement’s deterrent effects.
Costs: As with alcohol-impaired driving and seat belt use enforcement campaigns, the main costs are for law enforcement time and for publicity. The Minnesota Speed Management Program cost approximately $3 million, with $2.5 million for increased enforcement, $350 thousand for paid media (primarily radio), and $150 thousand for data collection and evaluation. The Minnesota DOT and State Patrol also made significant in-kind contributions toward project management, sign installation, speed detection equipment, engineering reviews, and fuel and vehicle costs (Harder & Bloomfield, 2007). The Milwaukee demonstration received a $650,000 grant and the other two demonstrations each received a $200,000 grant. Public-private partners (such as those in interests in injury prevention and public health) may be able to assist with publicity.
Time to implement: HVE campaigns may require 4 to 6 months to plan, publicize, and implement.