By Joel Bolton, Project Manager, Gulf States Regional Center for Public Safety Innovation, Natchitoches, Louisiana
lanning ahead is an essential ingredient in establishing an effective law enforcement traffic safety program. Once an agency’s workforce is trained and understands its role in saving lives and preventing injuries, policies are in place, and data are gathered and analyzed, then creative ideas can be generated to educate the public and enforce the law.
A good starting point for developing new ideas is to use a calendar of events for the coming year. This allows an agency to proactively plan traffic safety promotions and enhanced enforcement periods that fit in with what is already happening in the community; it also encourages positive law enforcement contact with high-risk groups.
By breaking the year down into quarters and looking at the events taking place during those periods, any agency can formulate a plan that will carry it through the year.
For example, the period from January 1 through the end of March presents events and holidays that are a natural for promoting designated drivers. Sports bars and private residences will be the setting for numerous Super Bowl parties. Then, Mardi Gras will be celebrated, followed by St. Patrick’s Day. Creative agencies will place news stories with local media with data on impaired-driving crashes, announce stepped-up enforcement around these events, and encourage partygoers who are planning to drink alcohol to designate a driver.
Remember to include training opportunities in the design as well. Plan to send a representative to the Lifesavers 2009 Conference in Nashville, Tennessee (www.lifesaversconference.org). This annual conference presents an opportunity for police agencies to network with highway safety experts, learn about traffic safety programs that work, and identify emerging issues.
This is also the time to complete the IACP National Law Enforcement Challenge Awards application for the great work done in 2008, as the deadline for entries will be coming up soon.
Continuing through the year, the second quarter will find many special events and a list of designated safety weeks. The prom and graduation season brings the responsibility to educate young drivers. Memorial Day travel will increase the chance of being involved in a crash for many families on U.S. streets and highways. Cinco de Mayo celebrations will be held in many communities. Wedding planners can be approached to help educate families during their busy season in June. The start of baseball season offers opportunities to reach fans of professional, semipro, and amateur teams.
Throughout the year, various groups will be promoting special observances that offer an opportunity to partner and help get out any agency’s traffic safety message. The impaired-driving problem in many communities can be highlighted when the National Institutes of Health observes April as Alcohol Awareness Month. Similarly, April 6–10 is National Work Zone Awareness Week (see http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/ for more information), presenting an opportunity to partner with highway engineers and road construction companies to encourage motorists to slow down in work zones.
May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month (www.noys.org), Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month (for information about this event from last year, see http://www.nhtsa.gov/planners/ShareTheRoad2008/), and National Bike Month, which includes a Bike to Work Week May 11–15 (www.bikeleague.org).
Agencies should make sure their calendars include the National Click It or Ticket Mobilization, May 18–31. Watch the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web site (www.nhtsa.gov) for ready-to-go press releases, talking points, posters, and more to promote this public education and enforcement period.
The third quarter begins with an opportunity to promote all traffic safety topics around the heavy travel period of Independence Day. With summer vacations a priority for many families, vehicle maintenance and safety should be discussed. As students return to school, pedestrian and bicycle safety programs can be implemented. The start of the high school, college, and professional football seasons presents an opportunity to reach fans at game time.
Labor Day also falls in this period and will bring the second major enforcement mobilization of the year. The first of two “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” National Crackdowns is scheduled for August 19 September 7. As with the May mobilization, agencies should plan on taking advantage of the national publicity and prepared materials (many of which will be available at the NHTSA Web site) to make this an effective enforcement effort.
Also of note, two safety weeks during this period will relate to traffic safety issues in every community. National Stop on Red Week will be observed August 2–8, and National Child Passenger Safety Week, held September 19–26, will include Seat Check Saturday.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are just some of the holidays celebrated in the last quarter of the year, along with New Year’s Eve.
October is International Walk to School Month, with a special day observed October 8 (www.walktoschool.org), and December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month (www.stopimpaireddriving.org). Special weeks observed include Drive Safely to Work Week, October 6–10 (www.trafficsafety.org); National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 18–24, and National School Bus Safety Week October 19–23 (www.napt.org).
The final law enforcement mobilization of the year will target impaired driving with the second “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” National Crackdown December 16, 2009–January 3, 2010.
Throughout the year, there is no shortage of opportunities to promote traffic safety creatively. As this brief list has shown, national-level support is available for local law enforcement agencies through the national mobilizations and crackdowns; there are potential community partners with similar safety goals for every agency; and holidays all through the year present fresh ideas for saving lives on U.S. streets and highways.
By focusing on just a few ideas from this list, an agency’s 2009 National Law Enforcement Challenge application will almost write itself. ■