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Back to Archives | Back to December 2006 Contents 

Ohio State Highway Patrol: Can Individual Troopers Make a Difference?

By Paul D. McClellan

n order to keep up with the strides being made in automotive design and highway design and the way laws are enforced, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has changed its overall traffic enforcement philosophy. In 2003 an organization-wide operational strategic goal called for the agency to achieve, by the end of the year 2007, a traffic fatality rate of one death per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the state of Ohio.

To accomplish this goal, a move was made to shift away from the past cookiecutter approach to highway safety and the way field commands are managed. Local commanders have begun to focus on individual specifics of their jurisdiction. Essentially, they are being held accountable for results at the local level and expected to achieve results toward the strategic goal by determining the needs to be focused on in their community. Resources and tools have been made available to all employees to empower them to make a difference. Data evaluation, computerizing reports, and computerized mapping are some of the tools being used by commanders for trend identification and data analysis. These resources enable commanders and troopers to know where and why crashes are occurring in order to better prevent them from occurring.

The strategic goal has set the ambitious goal of reducing traffic crash deaths in Ohio. By empowering employees and communicating the strategic goal, the Ohio State Highway Patrol intends to achieve its mission to save lives.

Purpose of the Strategic Goal
The purpose of Ohio’s strategic goal is to enhance the value of enforcement. The Ohio State Highway Patrol emphasizes the importance of enforcement by adding value to each enforcement contact by taking the time to make sure each driver knows exactly why he or she was stopped. Traffic citations are made with the purpose of achieving the mission by educating the public. The agency’s effectiveness is not based on the number of tickets written. Instead, traffic citations are used as a valuable tool in achieving the mission.

How Can Individual Troopers Make a Difference?
The chief executive officer of a police agency can easily communicate the strategic goal to a commander, how can the CEO communicate the goal beyond the commander to the trooper?

In Ohio, the duties of a first-line supervisor (a sergeant) have been restructured to reduce administrative burdens so they can focus their energy on leading, guiding, and directing troopers in the field to get out and make a difference. Troopers and sergeants are expected to relentlessly go after the identified focus in their respective communities to make a difference in traffic fatalities. All commanders know the number of lives that need to be saved in their areas to contribute to the overall statewide goal by the end of 2007.

Because of their direct contact with motorists, troopers are in a position to influence driving behaviors, to educate, and to do what is needed to achieve the agency’s goal. Troopers are encouraged to patiently deal with members of the public and to make sure motorists understand exactly why they were stopped, what they are being cited for, and what is required of them in court. If the contact is a warning, defect notification, or an assist, troopers are expected to use every opportunity to communicate the strategic goal: to save lives.

The Required Tools
Evaluation of data is a key element in accomplishing the strategic goal. Arming the commanders with proper data has always been a challenge, so the Ohio State Highway Patrol is computerizing traffic citations, crash reports, and additional forms, thus making troopers more efficient and giving officers up-to-date information. Computerized mapping has been implemented to enable commanders to see exactly where crashes are occurring in their areas. The agency continues to seek technological opportunities to assist in achieving the strategic goal.

LifeStat 1.0
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is employing LifeStat 1.0, a package of tools and resources that empowers local commanders, sergeants, troopers, and personnel at each post to make a difference. LifeStat 1.0 helps troopers learn more about where and why crashes are occurring. It provides vital information enabling sergeants to understand what they need to do to attain results on every shift. On every shift, the sergeants have a plan that they and their troopers need to execute in order to drive the fatality numbers down. LifeStat 1.0 helps sergeants and troopers use their time wisely and take advantage of the resources at their disposal.

A New Inspection Process
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is employing a new operational inspection process. The agency has recognized the need to change the current inspection process to make it meaningful to the local commanders, sergeants, and troopers so they understand that what they are doing is effective. A major emphasis of the new inspection is on the operational aspects of local commands. As a result, one day troopers may go out to an area that requires strict enforcement, and another day they may be in a high school giving a speech to teen drivers. Every day, and before every shift, commanders and sergeants make decisions on the most effective methods to achieve safety.

Essentially, the inspection process was redesigned to afford commanders and sergeants the flexibility to achieve the strategic goal through a combination of enforcement, education, and engineering. It is designed to focus their energy on the core mission and achievement of the strategic goal.

Field commanders are responding favorably to the significant changes to the inspection process, notably including positive comments about the elimination of the support documentation notebooks that the former process required. Lieutenant Kenneth E. Ward of the West Jefferson Post reports that “the division’s new inspection process is a streamlined, practical learning mechanism for the post management team. The crash reduction discussion has become a valuable tool that will assist us to achieve the Ohio State Highway Patrol ‘s LifeStat goal.”

The process change has eliminated a great deal of supervisory redundancy in paperwork. This extra time is allowing post supervisors to ensure that administrative and support service issues are handled according to policy, while focusing on enforcement and education programs to achieve the strategic goal.

The new process is also helping to identify statewide trends and initiate training programs to make corrections to common errors in an attempt to prevent problems from becoming statewide issues. In addition to statewide trends, the agency can also more easily identify district trends, which is proving beneficial to the district captains.

Through the new inspection change, employees are communicating in different ways to achieve administrative and operational successes and sharing unique and time-efficient programs from other posts. While the new inspection process is focusing on the strategic goal and ensuring that administrative tasks are completed according to established guidelines, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is seeing examples of other positive results from LifeStat 1.0 across the state.

Data Availability
Another effective resource is the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s research unit, which has been instrumental in assisting commanders with data analysis and trend identification. The research unit uses a variety of statistics to help commanders and sergeants identify problem crash areas, which is helpful information with respect to line assignments. The research unit was instrumental in the creation of a weekly LifesStat 1.0 crash trend analysis. District and post commanders receive relevant, useful information regarding fatal crashes for the past week, year-to-date data, and topical trend analysis intended to help improve Ohio’s fatal crash picture.

“The Life Stat 1.0 program supplies us with the direction for a more detailed understanding of crash trends. Knowing when, how, why, and where crashes are occurring, and focusing our enforcement efforts and community programs to address the specific crash problems in Ohio’s counties, allows us to further reduce fatalities,” observed Sergeant Wesley Stought of the Marion Post.

Field commanders are sharing this information with all personnel, particularly sergeants and troopers who can use the crash trend analysis to make a difference on every shift. Additionally, the information can also be found on the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Web site.1 This information allows commanders to deploy resources based on where problems are developing. Among the tools provided by the research unit to achieve the strategic goal is a comprehensive crash experience summary that shows the top 10 most active crash locations in any county, a weekly fatality summary and a monthly operational statistical summary, and detailed mapping capabilities for every county.

Standardizing Measurement Criteria
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is also using corridor safety information to implement local enforcement, education, and engineering solutions. This is an important element of the overall LifeStat 1.0 package because it helps provide a measurement criteria standard for identifying dangerous roadways and corridors in Ohio. Standardized measurement criteria was developed so that when a roadway is deemed dangerous in northwest Ohio, for example, the same measurement criteria for a road in southeast Ohio is being used.

Current Successes
In 2005 the Ohio State Highway Patrol continued working to achieve its strategic goal of a fatality rate of one per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by the end of 2007. By the end of 2005 the agency had achieved an estimated fatality rate of 1.18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in Ohio.

As part of LifeStat 1.0, the quality of each traffic contact that Ohio State Highway Patrol personnel make is emphasized. During some traffic contacts, troopers perceive indicators of criminal activity. Because of this attention to detail, the Ohio State Highway Patrol realized remarkable success in apprehending suspected drug dealers, car thieves, and other criminals. In 2005 Ohio troopers recovered 625 stolen vehicles valued at more than $3.9 million. Thirty officers earned the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Ace Award for recovering at least five stolen vehicles with apprehensions. Troopers also seized illegal drugs valued at nearly $52 million in during 2005, including 13,654 pounds of marijuana and 428 pounds of cocaine.

Furthermore, the agency has long recognized that safety education can help reduce tragedy. Troopers have worked to develop partnerships with businesses, community groups, health and safety organizations, local law enforcement agencies, and schools to inform citizens about safety issues. Several high-profile statewide safety partnerships also enhanced the Ohio State Highway Patrol ‘s education and branding efforts and built on local successes by creating sustained, cohesive visual images and messages throughout Ohio.

OhioSafe Commute
Even with the agency’s success in traffic enforcement, nearly 20 percent of traffic fatalities are occurring within Ohio’s largest urban areas. To address this trend, the Ohio State Highway Patrol partnered with local law enforcement and the Department of Transportation for Ohio-Safe Commute, an experimental program where troopers partner with local agencies for enforcement on high-crash corridors on urban freeways in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Ohio State Highway Patrol pilots assisted with 21 OhioSafe Commute details, which led to 449 arrests, including 52 aggressive driving violations and 25 cases of vehicles traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour. Buckle Up for a Successful Season

Buckle Up for a Successful Season
Two major corporate sponsors, Pizza Hut and Honda of America Manufacturing, joined the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) for the popular Buckle Up for a Successful Season program. During the spring, troopers conduct on-site observational surveys of student safety belt use at more than 300 OHSAA-member high schools. Student drivers and passengers who were buckled up while driving into the high school parking lot were rewarded with coupons redeemable for a free single-serving pizza from Pizza Hut. A total of 100,000 students across the state earned coupons. The objective is to remind students of the Buckle Up for a Successful Season message and to establish the habit of buckling up when going to school, practices, games—everywhere, every time.

To kick off the 2005-2006 school year, Honda of America Manufacturing helped establish the Annie Guccione Awards Program2 to recognize OHSAA-member schools, and junior and senior students from those schools, who actively promote teen safety issues. Students who earn area recognition receive paid enrollment to the Honda Teen Defensive Driving Program of the Mid-Ohio School in Lexington. From the area winners, nine regional winners will receive $1,000 in financial assistance for college from Honda. A state winner will be selected from the regional winners and will receive his or her choice of a new Honda Civic, Honda Element, or $10,000 in financial assistance for college. Schools will also be recognized for innovative programs, with each winning school receiving a banner for display.

Ride Smart, Drive Smart
Ohio ranks fifth nationally with more than 630,000 licensed motorcyclists, and motorcycle crash fatalities are a growing problem in the state. To help motorcyclists and other drivers share the road safely, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) teamed up for a safety education program (the tagline: Ride Smart. Drive Smart). Throughout the spring and summer, the agency publicized motorcycle safety tips from the AMA to contribute to a safe and enjoyable motorcycle riding season in Ohio.

The Future
The ultimate goal of the Ohio State Highway Patrol strategic goal is to help the agency to pursue its core mission to save lives. It is absolutely essential that troopers and sergeants, and the personnel at every post, are empowered to make a difference every day on every shift. With that empowerment comes great responsibility and accountability for individual and post actions. Through empowerment, data analysis, better resource allocation, and a streamlined inspection process, the Ohio State Highway Patrol can reach its goal in 2007 and each trooper can make a difference to ensure that the goal is met.

1Learn more at
2Annie Guccione, a 16-year-old junior from Canal Winchester High School, became the face and voice of Buckle Up for a Successful Season when she spoke at the program kickoff event at Canal Winchester High School in August 2004. Her speech about a severe crash in which she was involved and one of her sisters was killed, and the importance of safety belt usage and making mature decisions, is the cornerstone of the program. Regrettably, just weeks after speaking about her experience, Annie died as a result of injuries she sustained in the crash. She embodied the essence of the entire Buckle Up for a Successful Season program: students helping other students understand the importance of making safe decisions, including saying no to alcohol and buckling up. Additional information on the Buckle Up for a Successful Season program and the Annie Guccione Award, including a video of Annie Guccione’s remarks from the August 2004 event, can be found at .


From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 12, December 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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