Florida Law Enforcement Challenge

Article excerpt

Each year in the US, traffic crashes take 42,000 lives and cost over $230 billion. They are the leading cause of death to young children. Traffic accident injuries affect the quality of life for 3.2 million people nationwide.

In the state of Florida, 562,000 people are involved in traffic crashes annually and half are killed or injured. Two-thirds of those killed failed to use their safety restraints. As a matter of fact, one-third of Florida traffic fatalities are alcohol related. Three people are injured each hour due to impaired drivers.

These statistics place a ponderous traffic enforcement and education responsibility upon the troopers, sheriff's deputies, police officers, and citizens of the state. Many agencies are taking the initiative to reduce those crash and injury figures.

One Good Idea Leads to Another

The 2004 Florida Law Enforcement Challenge was a cooperative effort between the Florida Department of Transportation, the Institute of Police Technology and Management, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This program, funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, encourages law enforcement agencies to set new goals for the reduction of traffic crashes, as well as acts as a forum for shared experiences and effort recognition.

The categories for the police and sheriffs' offices challenge are based upon the size of the agencies. In addition to the police and sheriff's office awards, there are special challenge categories that include the Buckle-Up Florida Award, an award for specialized law enforcement agencies such as college and park police, the Florida Highway Patrol Troop Award and the Championship Class Award, which is a special category made up of first place winners from the year before. The challenge also acts in partnership with the IACP National Chiefs Challenge and its National Special Awards.

The following agencies represent the doggedly determined programs of an award-winning sheriff's office, a police department and a Florida Highway Patrol troop.

Florida Highway Patrol

Florida Highway Patrol's Troop A won first place in the Championship Category. According to Major Randy Brown, Troop A's efforts in the Florida Panhandle area were two-pronged: education and enforcement. The program has resulted in a reduction in fatal crashes and increased traffic enforcement. Community safety education included utilizing a seat belt rollover simulator at schools to demonstrate the dangers of not wearing a seat belt compared to wearing one.

A solid enforcement program deters average motorists from developing bad driving habits and keeps bad drivers in check. Last year troopers worked in partnership with 20 law enforcement agencies in the Florida panhandle to reduce crashes. One target was US Highway 98. The program, called Strike Force 98, was a special enforcement initiative to reduce the rising fatality and crash rate on that highway. It proved to be so successful that it spread north to the I-10 corridor.

Strike Force 98 concentrated on impaired drivers, speeding violations, and seat belt laws. Troop A upgraded its DUI countermeasures. Troopers also participated in a number of DUI checkpoints throughout the region, for both local and FHP checkpoints. Other agencies were always invited to participate in checkpoints and wolf packs. Strike Force 98's efforts were impressive and received considerable media coverage.

Another program aimed to reduce the number of unrestrained children in vehicles and educate parents in the proper installation of child safety seats. Parents often improperly install their children's car seats because of confusion due to the variety of manufacturers, child safety seat designs, and auto seat belt arrangements. Troop A worked at checkpoints with other law enforcement agencies and civilian volunteer groups to educate parents and ensure proper installation. …