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Back to Archives | Back to October 2004 Contents 

Highway Safety Initiatives

By Grady Carrick, M.S., M.P.A., Commander, Florida Highway Patrol, Jacksonville, Florida

The IACP National Law Enforcement Challenge (formerly the Chiefs Challenge) is an excellent source of innovative ideas about traffic safety. Hundreds of agencies of all sizes and types submit descriptions of their traffic safety programs to this annual competition. These agencies have found ways to increase occupant restraint use, reduce impaired driving, and curb speeding using a combination of enforcement, training, and public information and education. See a list of the winners from that competition on pages 104-105 in the August 2004 issue of the Police Chief or in the online version of the magazine at Watch the IACP Web site, for a forthcoming list of 50 innovative ways to improve traffic safety.

olving today’s traffic safety problems can be challenging for law enforcement agencies. Police managers face the demands of crowded roads, crashes, and dangerous driving behaviors. Coming up with solutions to traffic safety problems can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced manager.

Police organizations around the country are developing innovative activities to promote traffic safety and solve related problems. Replicating these activities can give police leaders a fresh approach to making roadways safer.

Undercover Trooper
A trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol goes undercover to detect speeding motorists.
Enforcement Programs

Enforcement is part of any traffic safety initiative, and some police agencies are having success with covert enforcement. In Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol dresses a trooper as a construction worker and positions him in highway work zones. As he operates a laser radar unit, he blends into the environment, allowing for the detection of speeders who are endangering workers and other motorists alike. A similar program in Kissimmee, Florida, takes the idea of covert enforcement to an even higher level: officers conduct enforcement activities while dressed as stranded motorists and even street-corner vagrants to catch offenders who keep a keen eye out for the police and only obey the law when police are visibly present.

Other innovative enforcement programs seek to maximize available manpower. The Minnesota State Patrol (MSP), for instance, begins special enforcement periods during which all personnel in the agency, regardless of rank, are required to work traffic enforcement. In Alameda County, California, officers from 21 separate police agencies work together to conduct impaired driving enforcement efforts on one area of the county at a time.

Training Strategies

Training officers is an important part of any traffic safety effort, but delivery of relevant, timely, and useful training about traffic safety need not be a burden even for smaller agencies. The Olney, Illinois, Police Department convinced local businesses to fund travel for an officer to attend a child passenger safety technician course in a nearby city. Taking innovation a step further, agencies in Pennsylvania that participate in a DUI operation called Operation Nighthawk receive refresher training in addition to speeches from motivational speakers. In Florida, officers are taught how to go about requesting re-examination for elderly drivers they suspect may not be suitable for licensing.

Public Information and Education

Schools can help police reach an important target population: teen drivers. In some jurisdictions, schools and police work with fire and emergency medical officials and MADD to stage mock DUI crashes to show students the realities of emergency response to the crash scene, death notifications, funerals, and the sentencing of drunk drivers. In New Kent County, Virginia, the sheriff’s office worked with the local high school to create a student seat belt use policy.

Old-fashioned public relations sometimes work the best when promoting safety. Partnering with local fast food restaurants, officers from some agencies distribute coupons for free french fries, beverages, or desserts at drive-through lines to children who are properly buckled up. To help combat impaired driving, some agencies obtain the permission of local retailers to attach tags bearing safety messages to bottles of wine, beer, and liquor.

Other Interesting Approaches

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, and many other jurisdictions, the police department arranges for free a cab ride home for drinkers and a free tow home for their vehicles. In Chesterfield County, Virginia, motorists convicted of DUI are required to reimburse the arresting agency for costs associated with their arrest, booking, and conviction. The Arizona Department of Public Safety partners with a local college to train and certify officers to withdraw blood from DUI suspects under certain conditions.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to traffic safety initiatives. Agencies around the country have found ways to promote traffic safety and solve traffic-related problems. The adept manager need only replicate the ingenuity of others and build upon their success.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 10, October 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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