Posted on Jun 25, 2014
The Pottsville Republican Herald is reporting today that local police departments and Pennsylvania State Police continue their efforts to reduce the incidents of aggressive driving in Schuylkill County, resulting in reduced fatalities.
According to the article, an awards presentation was held yesterday for officers and police departments to recognize their dedication and commitment to the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement and Education Program at the Frackville Community Ambulance Association building. The awards for 2013 were preceded by an instructional meeting conducted by the North Central Highway Safety Network in conjunction with Buckle Up PA and the state Department of Transportation.
According to the Pennsylvania Traffic Safety Enforcement Resource Center website, PAADEEP is a statewide initiative that utilizes crash data to identify aggressive driving locations. High visibility target enforcement, coordinated earned media, public awareness and training are conducted on these roads to reduce the number of needless aggressive driving injuries and deaths. The partnership is comprised of municipal police departments, the Pennsylvania State Police, PennDOT, the U.S. Department of Transportation and community groups and organizations.
Pennsylvania Traffic Safety Network regional coordinators Carol Alonge and Joseph O'Donnell, and Buckle Up PA Northeast Law Enforcement liaison Robert Webre conducted the seminar. As liaison, Webre is the go-between for PennDOT and the municipal police departments. The presentation was held in cooperation with the Buckle Up PA, North Central Highway Safety Network and is part of PennDOT's traffic safety initiatives.
"This is of great pride to me, and it has been for many years since the inception of Smooth Operator back in 2006 to the aggressive driving campaign now in Schuylkill County," Alonge said to the police officers. "I thank both the municipal and state police for your efforts. The program has been very successful and it's saving a lot of lives. It does make a big difference."
The first award was presented to West Mahanoy Township Patrolman Raymond Tonkinson, who was recognized for his work in helping to curb aggressive driving in the township. He was nominated by township police Chief Shawn Tray.
The following municipal police departments were recognized, accepted by a department representative:
- Ashland Police Department: Chief Mark O'Hearn.
- Butler Township Police Department: Lt. Daniel Holderman.
- Schuylkill Haven Police Department: Sgt. Glenn Firing.
- West Mahanoy Township Police Department: Tonkinson.
- West Penn Township Police Department: Chief Brian Johnson.
Two state police barracks were also recognized:
- Frackville: Sgt. Barry Whitmoyer.
- Schuylkill Haven: Sgt. Scott Ohl.
Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Robert S. Carl Jr. was invited to attend the seminar and be part of the awards presentation. Carl is a former Schuylkill County commissioner who was in office when the Smooth Operator/Aggressive Driving program was supported by the board of commissioners about a decade ago.
"I think the program is great for our community," Carl said. "It's important that aggressive driving is addressed for everyone's safety. These officers do a great job, and I'm pleased to present them with the awards."
After the meeting, Tonkinson said, "The big things, speed, careless driving, tailgating, are what we look for. Also, passing in no passing zones."
Tonkinson, who has been a police officer for 11 years, has seen an increase in the above-mentioned violations.
"It has been slowly escalating over the years," he said.
Patrolman Michael Hobbs attended the seminar, representing the Tamaqua Police Department, which decided to opt back into the aggressive driving initiative for 2014. Hobbs said that statistics show that the program works.
"Through aggressive driving grants, the stats are showing that crashes are down, and even speeders are being more cautious," Hobbs said.
Johnson from West Penn Township said speed enforcement is very important along state Route 309, especially in areas where construction is underway. He said a problem is that many drivers do not know the laws.
"We're trying to get people to know what the laws are," Johnson said. "A lot of people don't know what the vehicle laws are. They should know the basic ones. During inclement weather they should know if their wipers are on, then their headlights must be on."
According to information provided by Alonge, Pennsylvania speeding-related fatalities decreased from 262 in 2012 to 193 last year. Locally in PennDOT District 5, which includes Schuylkill County, aggressive driving fatalities have been reduced by 14 over the past five years; 103 in 2009 to 89 in 2013.
Alonge provided crash statistics from 1997 to 2013. The total number of crashes in 1997 was 1,808, but in 2013 it was 1,423. Speeding-related crashes in 1997 were 185, much higher than the 51 in 2013. Aggressive driving-related crashes also dropped over that time, from 1,006 in 1997 to 779 in 2013. However, the statistics are reversed when it involved distracted driving-related crashed, increasing from 86 in 1997 to 185 in 2013. The year with the lowest number of similar crashes was 45 in 2000, but in 2001, those crashes doubled to 91.
The next enforcement wave, which targets aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and running red lights, is planned for Aggressive Driving Wave 2 from July 7 to Aug. 31.
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