By Captain Howard B. Hall, Commanding Officer, Operational Services Section, Baltimore County, Maryland, Police Department
wo of the key ingredients needed to implement a successful traffic safety effort are proper planning and close supervision. Therefore, the traffic supervisor has a critical role in the overall traffic safety program. In many cases, however, the traffic supervisor does not have the skills needed in these areas—often selected for the position even if lacking an extensive traffic law enforcement background.
The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) Traffic Safety Committee recognized the need for quality training of traffic supervisors and has developed a program to provide it. The Managing Traffic Enforcement Programs (MTEP) course is available within the state of Maryland through the joint effort of partner agencies, including the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the University of Maryland, and the Johns Hopkins University. MTEP has six objectives:
- Provide students with an overview of the state’s highway safety mission
- Identify the components of a comprehensive traffic enforcement program
- Understand the use of enforcement, education, and engineering in traffic safety programs
- Identify data sources and use data to implement and evaluate traffic safety programs
- Develop goals, objectives, and action plans for a traffic safety initiative
- Develop a traffic safety program using the concepts and information provided
The committee included a cross-section of Maryland’s traffic safety community when developing the program segments to support these objectives. Most instructors were selected from several Maryland law enforcement agencies, as well as from NHTSA, MHSO, and area universities.
MTEP is a 40-hour program. The first day begins with an overview of traffic safety in Maryland and includes information on the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan,1 statewide crash trends and programs, and funding opportunities. A presentation related to crash data and analysis from the University of Maryland’s National Study Center for Trauma and EMS follows. The afternoon is spent on program planning and management to provide the students with information and ideas that they will use to develop projects. Later in the week, an experienced traffic commander addresses program evaluation.
One of the key components of MTEP is the class traffic safety project, assigned on the first day. Students are required to work in groups and use available data, as well as concepts that arise during subsequent classes. Work on the project during class time is allowed, and each group is required to present its project on the final day.
Several classroom sessions are devoted to the concepts of engineering, education, and enforcement. Two sessions are related to specific traffic engineering issues. The first session focuses on the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices2 and gives the students insight into roadway and intersection design. Its goal is to help students identify potential engineering issues and access appropriate support.
The second session focuses on speed management and human factors related to driving and traffic crashes. Instructors come from the University of Maryland’s Technology Transfer Center. A presentation on enforcement focuses on techniques and strategies specifically related to speed and impaired driving. A NHTSA representative provides a session on public information and education including traffic safety messaging and media use.
An MTEP goal is to provide students with information about successful programs and projects that they may use in their departments. To achieve this, a panel discussion includes representatives from police agencies, as well as an engineer. Participants describe their role in traffic safety, using agency-specific examples.
A separate session is used to discuss the Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) Project sponsored by NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and its National Institute of Justice. The primary goal of DDACTS is to use traffic enforcement to impact the incidence of both traffic crashes and crime.3
On the final day, Dr. Sheldon Greenberg from the Johns Hopkins University discusses organizational culture and traffic enforcement. Dr. Greenberg is a former traffic officer and stresses the need for law enforcement to focus on traffic safety. He also discusses the right way to conduct traffic enforcement: purpose driven and focused on public safety.
MTEP ends with class project presentations. Although some students find this intimidating, the project presentations afford them opportunities to apply the concepts that they have learned. Each group makes its presentation, which is followed by a critique from instructors and classmates.
The initial MTEP class was taught in the fall of 2008 with experienced traffic supervisors as students. Their feedback was used to finalize the program, which has now been delivered several times.
The classes are provided free of charge to attendees by MHSO. The target audience is traffic supervisors, as well as officers assigned to develop traffic projects and community traffic safety program coordinators. Class evaluations have been very positive and the quality of the projects has been excellent. Many students have stated that the concepts they learned can be used immediately upon their return to duty.
The MCPA and the MHSO are pleased with MTEP’s success and believe that it will improve traffic safety programs. The use of local instructors showcases regional expertise and provides cost-effective training. Additionally, each student receives in-service credit from the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. This sustainable effort will benefit Maryland law enforcement—and citizens—for years to come. ■
1The Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan, 2006–2010: Destination: Saving Lives (September 2006), http://www.sha.maryland.gov/oots/SHSP.pdf (accessed September 25, 2009).
2U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, 2003 ed., including revision 1 (November 2004) and revision 2 (December 2007), http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2003r1r2/mutcd2003r1r2complet.pdf (accessed September 25, 2009).
3For more information on DDACTS, see James H. Burch II and Michael N. Geraci, “Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety,” The Police Chief 76, no. 7 (July 2009): 18–23; and Howard B. Hall, “Targeting Crash and Crime Hot Spots in Baltimore County,” The Police Chief 76, no. 7 (July 2009): 24–28.