Mayor Finkbeiner

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Traffic Crash Reduction Gets Results

"I am so very proud of our fine Toledo police officers for instituting this innovative program that is showing very impressive results and saving lives in Toledo, Ohio. This multi-faceted program is significantly reducing fatal traffic crashes and reducing injuries, making the streets of Toledo safer for all of our citizens."
- Mayor Finkbeiner

The number of traffic crashes within the City of Toledo had remained fairly constant from 1987 through 1997, and it was too high. In fact, during this same period, Toledo ranked consistently among the top three Ohio cities for its crash rate - even though the total number of the city’s crashes had been plus or minus 1 percent each year. With a growing number of vehicle miles traveled each year, we were only staying even.

Traffic enforcement in the City of Toledo was mainly accomplished by field units on their beats. With calls for service rising each year, traffic enforcement was taking a back seat to the more criminally-oriented calls. The use of radar or laser by field units was virtually nonexistent. The only traffic enforcement that was taking place was through traffic grants on an overtime basis. Over a long period of time, the citizens of Toledo started to take advantage of this lack of enforcement by routinely ignoring traffic laws. Speeding and especially red light violations were rampant. We decided that in order to alleviate the problem, a multi-faceted approach had to be taken.

Adding Personnel for Traffic Enforcement

The first and most important factor in the equation was to increase the number of officers assigned to the Traffic Section. Twenty officers were added over a three-year period, including six motorcycle officers. Radar and laser guns were purchased and assigned to traffic and field operations units. The additional officers have been assigned to traffic duties at the three police districts. Supervised by a Traffic Sergeant, who gives them assignments and monitors their activities, they are expected to issue at least 125 to 150 citations per month Ń and some exceed well over 200 per month.

Teamwork on Red Light Running

The officers are assigned to enforce traffic regulations at intersections and street locations that have demonstrated a high crash rate or have been the subject of a citizen complaint. They also monitor the school zones when school is in session. Four or five officers team up to monitor intersections for red light violations. One officer observes the violations at the intersection, and the other officers wait down the street to stop and cite the violators.

This has been a very effective tactic for red light violations, with 1,367 citations issued in the first six months of 1997. During the same period in 1998, officers issued 4,980 red light citations. Given the success of this initiative, the Toledo City Council is looking into the possibility of installing red light cameras at selected intersections in the city to help combat the intersection crash problem.

Compstat System for Statistical Analysis

A 1998 goal of the Police Department has been to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities, with the following objectives:

  • increase moving violation citations by 5 percent;
  • decrease traffic crashes by 5 percent; and
  • reduce traffic fatalities by 5 percent.

In order to help achieve these objectives, a Compstat system was instituted that provides a framework for monthly comparison of statistics for all crimes and a discussion of strategies to determine what is effective . Watch commanders record the statistics for beat units so as to monitor activity, and meet monthly with the Deputy Chief of Operations to insure that officers are producing the desired type of activity.

Selective Enforcement for DUI, Seat Belts, and Speed

The Traffic Section obtained a 402 Grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety to operate a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program during Federal Fiscal Year 1998. The grant provides funds to pay for traffic officers’ overtime, and they are assigned to DUI Patrols on selected weekends during the year. In April and May the overtime officers were assigned to monitor the areas around each of Toledo’s 17 high school proms. The officers were instructed to strictly enforce laws in these areas in order to provide a safe environment for the events. As a result, there were no crashes reported involving students attending proms.

Ten-day "blitz" periods were conducted before the July 4th and Labor Day holidays. During these blitz periods overtime traffic officers were assigned to enforce strictly the traffic laws at high crash locations throughout the city - concentrating on speed, DUI, and seat belt violations. A media event was held before each ten-day blitz to inform the public of the effort, and results of the officers’ activities were published after the blitz.

"Push Truck" to Keep Traffic Flowing

The Traffic Section has been part of a Traffic Management Plan for the reconstruction of I-75 for the past three years. A three-quarter ton pick up truck was purchased and equipped as a "push truck" for the Police Department with funds from a force account - federal funds provided for traffic management - administered by the City of Toledo Transportation Department. Officers use this truck to keep traffic on the expressway flowing during construction. They can push or pull vehicles out of the way, provide jumper cables or water to vehicles, transfer fuel, and change tires. Officers are instructed to do whatever is essential to keep the traffic flowing.

They also monitor the speed in the construction zones when necessary to protect the construction workers and prevent crashes. Funds are also provided for officers to patrol the construction area in a patrol car as well as the push truck. This has been a very successful program and has helped to reduce crashes and curb aggressive driving in the construction zone.

City-County Cooperation

Another part of the effort to reduce crashes is the participation of the police department in the Lucas County Traffic Safety Program. Area police agencies, engineers, educators, and health care providers meet regularly and discuss traffic issues. The participants form partnerships to help alleviate problems that are identified and to promote traffic safety in the community.

Results and Future Plans

The results of this traffic safety initiative have been encouraging. Total traffic citations have increased by 27 percent over the first half of 1998. Traffic crashes have been reduced by 12 percent during that same period. Fatal traffic crashes have been reduced by 47 percent. These figures far exceed the objectives set for 1998. While they only represent half of 1998, they are indicative of the total effort and demonstrate that we are on the right track.

For the first time in over a decade traffic crashes have been significantly reduced. If the current trend continues throughout the year, 1999 objectives will become more specific in order to further reduce traffic crashes.

Contact: Lt. Louis Borucki, Commander, Traffic Section, Toledo Police Department, 419/245-3254.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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