Motorcycle Safety Helmets
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued Federal Motor
Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218, Motorcycle Helmets, on August 20, 1973.
The standard went into effect on March 1, 1974, and was most recently amended
on October 3, 1988.
All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States are required by law to meet or
exceed the minimum performance requirements established by FMVSS 218. These
requirements include minimum impact and penetration capabilities, chin strap
retention qualities, and a 210-degree field of view, along with a number of
labeling requirements. To certify that their helmets meet all the requirements
of FMVSS 218, a manufacturer places the letters DOT on the back of
each helmet. This lettering is often referred to as a DOT label or
DOT sticker. If a manufacturer sells a helmet certified as meeting
the FMVSS standard and NHTSA discovers the helmet does not,
NHTSA conducts an investigation that can
result in the manufacturer's having to recall the helmets in question.
Recently, the manufacture and sale of costume or novelty helmets has
dramatically increased. These helmets, if not sold as motorcycle helmets, are
not required to meet FMVSS 218. If the manufacturer does not place a DOT
sticker on the back of the helmet, they are not certifying that the product
meets FMVSS 218, and they do not claim that it offers any protection at all to
the wearer. A problem arises with a novelty helmet when its manufacturer or distributor
encloses or offers a DOT label separately for the consumer to place on the back
of the helmet. Reputable manufacturers place the DOT sticker on their helmets
before shipping them to distributors.
Most state helmet use laws require motorcyclists to wear helmets that
meet FMVSS 218. NHTSA has developed a training videotape and an informational
brochure to assist law enforcement personnel in identifying helmets that do not
meet this national standard. For copies of the video and brochure, call NHTSA
at (202) 366-1739.
FMVSS 218 Requirements
A DOT label must be affixed to the center, lower back of each approved
FMVSS 218 also requires the manufacturer to sew into the helmet liner a label
or labels that can be easily read without removing padding or any permanent
part. This label must include following information:
- Manufacturer's name or identification
- Precise model designation
- Month and year of manufacture, which can be spelled
out (June 1988) or expressed in numerals (6/88).
- Instructions to the purchaser as follows:
- Shell and liner constructed of (types of materials spelled out).
- Helmet can be seriously damaged by some common substances without damage being visible to the
user. Apply only the following: (recommended cleaning agents, paints,
- Make no modifications. Fasten helmet securely. If
the helmet experiences a severe blow, return it to the manufacturer for
inspection or destroy it and replace it.
- A helmet must have an inner liner, about one-inch thick and made of
- The chin strap must be strong and well-attached.
- There can be no attachments or protrusions
over two-tenths of an inch long.
Indicators Of An Illegal Helmet
The following is a list of items, in lay terms, that are indicators of illegal
- If there are protrusions from the helmet such as the old German style with a
spike on the top (World War I vintage), it will not meet the FMVSS standard.
(Caution: Some helmets styled like World War II German helmets are legal. Some
very reputable manufacturers produce them to meet FMVSS.)
- If the helmet consists of a beanie that covers only the very top of the
rider's head, it probably doesn't meet the standard.
- If the helmet has a web liner, no padding, or padding only, or a thin shell
of less than one inch of styrofoam on the inside, it likely will not meet FMVSS 218.
- Fake helmets usually weigh less than one pound, whereas legal helmets
usually weigh more than three pounds.
- If the strap is less than one-half inch wide, or with a single strap
attached to he helmet, it probably doesn't meet the federal standard.
- If the strap is poorly attached with small rivets, it probably doesn't meet
- If a DOT label is on the lower back of the helmet, but you suspect it really
does not meet FMVSS 218, inspect the inside of the helmet to see if the
manufacturer has complied with the labeling requirements previously described.
If all labeling requirements are not met, the helmet does not meet FMVSS
- Helmets may have labels from the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, which has somewhat different
requirements. However, the DOT standard is the only one the helmet is required
by law to meet.
This information was provided by NHTSA's Safety Countermeasures Division
and compiled by the Licensing Depart-ment of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
Registration, Title and Inspection Enforcement
Motor Vehicle Registration
The system of motor vehicle registrations carried out in the various states and
provinces serves multiple purposes, foremost of which are
- to identify, for law enforcement purposes, the vehicles traveling our highways
- to raise revenue. A vehicle's license plate provides law enforcement with a
means of determining ownership, vehicle make, model, year of manufacture, and other
items, all or any of which may prove instru-mental in conducting law enforcement
Two-Plate Reflectorized Registration
The proliferation of different plate types bearing the same charac-ters creates
problems in detecting stolen and wanted vehicles, and states should avoid
issuing duplicate identification, if possible.
Mandating that all vehicles display registration plates on both the front and
rear of the vehicle enhances law enforcement's efforts to identify a vehicle
rapidly, whether it be from a frontal position or from the rear of a vehicle.
Police officers are commonly trained to jot down the license plate numbers of
oncoming vehicles they see while responding to an accident or crime scene, in
an effort to identify possible fleeing perpetrators or eyewitnesses to the
incident. Bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers frequently observe the plate
numbers of suspicious vehicles and report them to the police. This assistance
has been instrumental in solving many serious crimes over the years.
A study conducted by the IACP and published in 1979 revealed the benefit of
two-plate registration. In addition to the rapid identification of a vehicle by
police authorities, two-plate reflec-torized registration also enhances officer
safety. Through today's synthetic materials used to cover registration plates,
a minimum amount of light can illuminate the plate as an alert to the police
officer for personal safety and for identification purposes.
If for no reason other than officer safety, two-plate reflectorized
registration should be incorporated as a primary design for registration plates
in every state. Additionally, a reflectorized plate prevents collisions with
vehicles parked along streets in poorly lighted areas.
Enforcing the Two-Plate Requirement
From an enforcement perspective, vehicles required by law to display two
registration plates are easier to identify, and the dual plate registration is
effective in thwarting vehicle thefts.
In those jurisdictions where two plates are required, the absence of one plate
provides an officer with articulable suspicion to execute a traffic stop for
vehicle registration inquiry, leading to the detection of drunk drivers,
persons operating under revocation or suspension, and persons transporting
In today's society, the general public supports laws and regulations that
benefit them, even if they may involve an increased or new user fee. It should
be the responsibility of law enforcement and other public agencies to
demonstrate and convey to the public and legislative bodies the benefits from a
two-plate system. Vehicle owners can see potential benefits in the event their
vehicles are stolen. Citizens can appreciate how the two-plate system enhances
police officers' abilities to detect criminals and simultaneously heightens
Police executives and associations should be proactive in advocating two-plate
systems in jurisdictions that do not have them and in fighting back attempts to
go to a one-plate concept. However, justifying the need for a two-plate system
is difficult unless law enforcement officers aggressively enforce the two-plate
requirement by stopping vehicles with only one plate and issuing either a
warning or citation to these drivers. Each police department should have a
specific policy supporting enforcement against drivers with missing, mutilated,
or illegible number plates.
Automated Data Collection At Roadside
Increased refinements in the field of electronics have opened up new vistas of
exploration within the law enforcement profession. Sophisticated electronics
and computer equipment are making their way into more facets of our daily
routines, from the check-out counter at the neighborhood grocery store to the
vehicles driven on our highways.
Electronic equipment such as bar code scanners, transponders, and computers can
be utilized in law enforcement and highway safety disciplines to evaluate
traffic flow patterns, determine traffic demographics, record vehicle
registrations, issue parking tickets, and automatically collect highway
The progressive use of equipment and techniques that uniquely identify vehicles
without requiring any action by the driver are evolving. An automatic vehicle
identification (AVI) device can be attached to a vehicle, whether it be a bar
code or a more sophisticated transponder, containing specific information about
that vehicle. Through the use of a reader capable of interpreting the AVI, law
enforcement personnel can instantaneously retrieve the information on the
vehicle for their use.
Equipment of this type and capability can enhance vehicle registration
requirements and enforcement without placing an officer in a situation of
Within the law enforcement community, title enforcement responsibilities
usually do not generate discussion; however, with-out specialized training and
concentration in vehicle titling and registration, the public can suffer
astronomical fraud and economic loss.
Title enforcement requires investigating police personnel to have a
comprehensive knowledge of state and local laws, regulations and ordinances,
and the idiosyncrasies associated with various types of titles, reissued
titles, duplicate titles, salvage titles, and manufacturer's statements of
origin. As with most sophisticated law enforcement areas and functions,
specialty skills have evolved that are essential to effectiveness.
Beginning in 1981, all motor vehicles manufactured in the United States or
imported for sale for over-the-road use were required to have a 17-character
vehicle identification number (VIN). In 1987, the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft
Law Enforcement Act of 1984 became law. Through the enactment of this law,
vehicles with a high-theft potential were required to use component part
labeling or secondary sources of identification, so-called hidden
VIN's. Specially trained officers use these hidden VIN's to verify the
authenticity of a vehicle or a component part.
By law, this secondary source of identification must be indelibly printed on a
label. This label must be permanently affixed to the component part on an
interior surface or location, so that it cannot be damaged in a collision or
during part installation, adjustment, or removal. It must be located in such a
fashion as to prevent its destruction or defacement during normal dealer
preparation, including any after-market installation procedures. The label must
contain the manufacturer's logo, or some other unique identifier, plus the VIN.
Any attempt to alter the label must either leave traces
of the original number or visibly alter the label's appearance. In cases
of non-label identifiers, inscriptions to the part must be so that any removal
or alteration visibly changes the appearance of the vehicle part.
Locating the secondary sources of identification is the responsibility of the
manufacturer. In order to assist law enforcement, manufacturers must notify, in
writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of their numbers
and locations within 308 days of the date the vehicle line is offered for
sale. Having the special expertise to investigate cases where secondary sources of
vehicle identification are utilized is invaluable to a police agency. The
National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a private organization funded by the
automobile manufacturers and insurers, has special agents in every state who
are available to law enforcement to provide training and other technical
assistance in identifying hidden VIN's.
Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection
Furthering highway safety and providing a safe travel environment for our
citizens can be accomplished in a wide variety of fashions. Such is the case
when a jurisdiction implements by law a periodic motor vehicle inspection
(PMVI) program. Approximately 22 U.S. jurisdictions, several U.S. territories, and the majority
of the Canadian provinces have some type of PMVI program. Some jurisdictions
require annual or semi-annual safety inspections at either a state-maintained
or a private motor vehicle inspection stations licensed by state authorities.
Annual inspections may be required of passenger cars and more frequent
inspections of commercial vehicles and school buses. State-level law
enforcement agencies are charged with additional inspections of school buses by
specially trained troopers or inspectors.
In other jurisdictions, the periodic safety inspections by an authorized
inspection station are not required, but officers are allowed to stop vehicles
to conduct roadside safety inspections.
Increased concern by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over air
pollution caused by automobile emissions has led many jurisdictions to require
periodic inspection of motor vehicle emission systems. This procedure can be
effectively combined with periodic safety inspections in a single system. Law
enforcement executives and associations are encouraged to lobby for enacting
PMVI in those states and provinces where it does not currently exist.
Although variation exists within the types of PMVI programs, all ensure the
periodic inspection of basic safety components such as steering, tires,
suspension, brakes, lighting systems, and glass.
Effectiveness of PMVI Programs
Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin-istration
(NHTSA) have identified vehicle defects as the sole cause of one out of every
43.4 fatal accidents studied. In addition, it has been determined that vehicle
defects play a partial role in a much larger percentage of all collisions. The
failure of essential mechanical vehicle componentssuch as ball joints,
idler arms, rack and pinion steering units, shock absorbers or struts, tires,
and brakescan cause loss of control of a motor vehicle while it is in
Each jurisdiction is responsible for using any available means to guarantee
that vehicle safety components are examined and periodically reexamined to
reduce the level of jeopardy that exists while a motor vehicle is being
Public Support for PMVI
While PMVI programs are not always recognized for the benefits they deliver,
widespread public support does exist for such programs. Public perception is
that the benefits derived from the inspection far outweigh the inconvenience or
cost of having to take a vehicle to a service facility for an inspection.
With the proliferation of self-service gasoline stations, no longer is the
friendly local attendant looking over a vehicle when it comes in for fuel and
advising the driver of the needed replacement of worn components or low tire
pressure. Without a PMVI program, what would be a simple, low-cost replacement
of brake pads often leads to the expensive replacement of rotors simply because
the problem was not caught in time. Thus, PMVI programs can actually reduce the
cost of motor vehicle maintenance, as well as enhance safety factors.
Law Enforcement Benefits and Concerns
Requiring an inspection sticker on a vehicle also gives the police additional
articulable suspicion to stop a vehicle, and frequently
leads to the detection of drunken drivers, revoked or suspended
operators, persons transporting contraband, or stolen vehicles.
The primary concern of state authorities responsible for a PMVI program is to
ensure that a quality safety inspection is provided at a reasonable price;
inspection facilities are reasonably accessible and convenient; and safety
inspection is not utilized as a convenient excuse by unethical mechanics to
sell unnecessary vehicle repairs. Periodic use of undercover officers and
vehicles to run through the inspection process serve as an effective quality
control measure for these programs.
With the conscientious efforts of state agencies, street-level enforcement
officers, and public advocacy groups, a PMVI program can be effectively
administered and enforced and contribute enormously to highway safety.
Rebuilt or reassembled vehicles are often utilized by motor vehicle thieves to
conceal the identity of a stolen vehicle. Using the salvage parts of several
stolen vehicles to rebuild the vehicle, the thief then represents the stolen
vehicle as one rebuilt and is able to secure the proper documentation to
legitimize the sale of the vehicle.
A second concern regarding rebuilt vehicles is the vehicle's level of safety
provided to its occupants and its road worthiness. Law enforcement officials
must take specific measures to ensure that stolen vehicles are not legitimately
sold in the public market and that unsafe vehicles are not allowed to operate
on the highways.
To prevent the sale of stolen vehicles, law enforcement personnel should
examine all salvaged or rebuilt vehicles prior to issuing a title. Specially
trained VIN examiners, generally at the state level, should closely scrutinize
each such vehicle for signs of repair and the replacement of parts. The
examination should include a review of the documentation to ensure all
replacement parts are accounted for and that component part labels or
inscriptions are intact and free of tampering. Any discrepancy should be
thoroughly examined, including an examination of major component part labels
Rebuilt vehicles can offer an affordable alternative to individuals who
otherwise could not purchase a vehicle, but unscrupulous or incompetent
rebuilders may shortcut or overlook critical safety components. For this
reason, all rebuilt vehicles should be inspected for safety compliance. A check
of all vehicle safety equipment should be performed to assure compliance with
applicable statutory requirements.
Through a systematic examination at the time of registration and title,
the potential for fraud is significantly reduced while, simultaneously, unsafe
vehicles are detected.
Specially Constructed Vehicles
Specially constructed vehicles, street rods, and other assembled
vehicles pose many of the same problems as rebuilt vehicles. A specially
constructed vehicle generally is not visually recognizable as being produced by
a particular manufacturer, while the assembled vehicle is distinguishable
because its composition is by a well-known manufacturer of commercially
When the owner of a specially constructed or assembled vehicle requests a title
or registration, law enforcement and vehicle titling authorities should ensure
that the vehicle is examined for safety compliance. Such vehicles should be
required to meet and be in compliance with all state equipment laws prior to
final inspection and the issuance of a title.
A particular problem involves vehicles fitted with oversize tires or
jacked up by other means so that they are extremely high on the
road and their centers of gravity have been drastically altered. Such
alterations can impair the handling dynamics of the vehicle and lead to
component failure and dangerous traffic crashes.
When such vehicles slip through the registration and titling process,
street-level law enforcement officers are obligated to enforce state laws and
local ordinances regarding such standards as bumper height requirements. Law
enforcement agencies should have written policies encouraging their officers to
enforce these requirements.
Roadway Management Through Engineering and Enforcement
Enforcement and Engineering Liaison
The basics of an effective traffic safety program involve the three
E'senforcement, engineering, and educationworking in
conjunction for safer roads and drivers.
Some accidents are caused by vehicle defects. Adopting mandated federal motor
vehicle safety standards, such as seat belts, air bags, collapsible steering
columns, padded dashboards, child safety seats, and rollover and side impact
protection, have reduced the number of injuries in traffic accidents. Periodic
motor vehicle inspection programs in many jurisdictions assure us that vehicles
maintain their road worthiness during their useful lives.
Aggressive traffic enforcement programs by state police and highway patrol
agencies, county sheriffs' departments and local police departments deter
unsafe drivers by suspending or revoking driver licenses for hazardous moving
violations. In addition, enforcement efforts to detect vehicle equipment
violations remove unsafe vehicles from the road.
Public information campaigns conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, state governor's highway safety representatives, state and
local law enforcement agencies and licensing authorities, and public groups
such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and SADD (Students Against
Driving Drunk), along with high school and commercial driver education
programs, violator schools, and driver improvement programs, acquaint drivers
with rules of the road and instill proper driving attitudes.
The Final E
The final E involves engineering. Design, construction, and maintenance of
highways and traffic control devices can be instrumental in reducing
collisions. Seldom do enforcement and engineering work in concert to promote highway
safety, despite the fact that police officers on patrol are perhaps the best
eyes and ears that traffic engineers could have. By reporting obscured or
nonfunctioning traffic control devices and dangerous highway conditions and
providing feedback from citizen complaints and the study of traffic congestion
problems, officers can offer important input for traffic engineers. Engineers
can work with officers by making highway improvements such as changing speed
zones, erecting new types of traffic control devices, and placing roadside
objects, such as utility and sign poles and guard rails, so that out-of-control
vehicles are slowed or stopped without causing injury to occupants.
The Precedent Is Set
Years ago, the Bureau of Public Roads, the forerunner of the present Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) held the first national joint
enforcement/engineering conference. State traffic engineers and top law
enforcement officials met for the first time, many after working in the same
state for years.
At this conference, common goals and interests were promoted in the area of
traffic safety and an efficient transportation system. It was recognized that,
in planning new highways, cross-overs are needed on controlled access highways
to provide access for law enforcement vehicles; as well, space is required for
pulling commercial vehicles over for weight checks and safety inspections. It
was also recognized that both the efforts of engineering and law enforcement
are necessary: short-term traffic problems can often be solved efficiently by
law enforcement actions, while long-term problems are often best removed by
engineering solutions. Out of this first national conference grew suggestions for regional,
multi-disciplinary enforcement and engineering conferences throughout the
nation, whereby state law enforcement and DOT engineers from multi-state
regions could discuss problems and exchange ideas. Individuals attending from
each state could expand this concept when they returned to their home states.
Finally, there developed a concept that state Department of Transportation
officials and state, county and local law enforcement agencies could meet with
their counterparts in both statewide conferences and regional meeting within
Jurisdictions could schedule regular meetings between these disci-plines, even
allowing engineers to ride with police officers and see at first-hand the
situations that an officer was talking about. Construction conferences could be
held during the planning stages of highway improvement jobs so that law
enforcement would have strong input. The need for funding of patrols could be
taken into consideration in budgeting for highway improvements. Work zone
safety could be discussed and improved.
The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) of Texas A&M University in
College Station, Texas, is an excellent resource on this concept, since TEEX is
the driving force behind a successful engineering/enforcement liaison in the
lone star state. Arizona, capitalizing on the Texas experiment, also holds
regional and local meetings between DOT engineers and Department of Public
Safety commanders and engages in the joint planning of safety projects,
including engineering and enforcement concepts, with consideration of all the
other disciplines that play a significant role. DOT's top managers attend DPS
commanders' meetings and develop mutually agreed-upon policy statements,
recognize differences of opinion and deal with them effectively, and emphasize
risk management which has reduced lawsuits arising out of allegations of
collisions caused by unsafe highway conditions.
In any state where these joint engineering and enforcement conferences are not
currently in use, police executives and
associations and highway transportation planners and engineers should be
proactive in bringing about such efforts.
Freeway Incident Management: Strategies for Relieving Congestion
The urban areas of the United States have experienced tremendous population
growth over the past ten years. With this growth has come rapidly worsening
traffic, as both passenger vehicles and freight carriers stretch the capacity
of our road systems. While adequate mass transit facilities are generally
available inside city limits, development patterns have placed both the people
and the jobs just outside the city areas, creating new transportation patterns.
The lack of mass transit to meet the needs of the growing suburban commuter
force has left people stuck in their vehicles, typically one person to a car.
The increase in numbers of one- or two-occupant vehicles has overburdened our
highway system to the point that peak periods of highway use (rush
hours) frequently extend to two or three hours. Traffic slows to 30-35
mph on roadways designed to move vehicles at 55 miles per hour or more. The
result is more pollu-tion, more frustrated commuters, and a higher cost of
commuting due to increased fuel consumption.
Traveling in or around urban areas during a peak-use period is irritating at
best, but it can be downright miserable when an incident further impedes the
traffic flow. In a typical freeway lane capable of carrying 2,000 vehicles each
hour, an incident that blocks one lane out of three will reduce that highway's
capacity by nearly 50 percent. Thus, when blockage occurs, the cause needs to
be eliminated quickly so that ordinary delays do not become extraordinarily
long. Freeway Incident Management (FIM) can help reduce the delay caused by
Problems Caused by Lane Closure
Traffic engineers estimate that, for every minute a traffic lane is
blocked, it takes four minutes to restore the flow after the incident has been
cleared. When an incident occurs during peak-use traffic periods, even a small
reduction in the time taken to clear the incident can greatly relieve
In an average urban area such as Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, as many as
400 blockages lasting one hour or more will occur annually. Many more incidents
will last less than one hour.
The FHWA has translated the average 20-minute lane blockage into a monetary
figure to show how freeway incidents directly affect the national economy. If
one lane of a three-lane freeway is blocked for 20 minutesassuming the
freeway is running at capacitythe delay caused to motorists will exceed
1,200 vehicle hours. At the FHWA-assigned value of $4.00 per hour for each
vehicle hour of delay, the cost of the incident due to the delay alone is
The goal of FIM, in addition to saving lives and property, is to minimize the
effects of such incidents on traffic congestion and reduce the possibility of
This can be accomplished by the following:
- the time spent for incident detection and verification
- Reducing response time by the appropriate agencies
- Introducing on-scene management of personnel and traffic
- Reducing the time spent to clear the incident from
- Providing accurate and timely information to the public in
order to divert traffic from the incident.
What Is An Incident?
An incident that causes significant delay on a freeway can be as simple as a
disabled vehicle in a traffic lane or on a shoulder. It can be a lost piece of
lumber from a truck that causes motorists to change lanes suddenly. Such minor
incidents, if detected promptly, can be cleared rapidly with little residual
affect on peak-use traffic.
Major freeway incidents on the other hand, generally include:
- Motor vehicle crashes involving serious personal injury
- Motor vehicles on fire
- Crashes where a load of cargo is spilled
- Crashes involving hazardous material cargo
- Fatal crashes
- Overturned cars or trucks
- Downed power lines across roadways
- Structural failures of bridges or roads.
Such incidents result in delay, inconvenience, wasted fuel, frustration, and
higher costs to motorists. Stopped traffic can create secondary motor vehicle
crashes. Local streets can become gridlocked by motorists trying to avoid the
What Can Be Done?
No single agency can effectively respond to and clear a major traffic incident.
Traditionally, the agencies charged for the motor vehicle crash clearance are
police, fire, and rescue services, and either public or private wrecker
companies. If structural damage is done as a result of the incident, the local
and state Department of Transportation (DOT) is called to respond, generally
after the other agencies have cleared the scene.
With FIM, many other agencies can be involved. Acting together, these agencies
can reduce the total time to resolve and remove incidents by more than 50
percent. Agencies and services that should be an integral part of planning for
and responding to freeway incidents include; the state police and law enforcement agencies
having jurisdiction over surrounding areas, the state DOT, local transportation
agencies, large and small rig wrecker companies, emergency medical services,
fire departments, local media representatives, local traffic reporters, the
Department of Public Works, traffic engineers, and public and private safety
In the past, tasks were accomplished sequentially at a crash site: The police
would secure the area around the incident, rescue personnel would work at
rendering aid and removing victims, the police would investigate the crash and
finally, wreckers would be called to tow the disabled vehicles. After the
incident was cleared, DOT officials would be notified of downed signs or
missing guard rails.
At each stage of the incident, responding emergency vehicles would arrive and
park wherever the operator could find an open space. The result was a mixture
of emergency vehicles often blocking each other for long periods of time, even
when some vehicles were no longer needed.
Creating An FIM Plan
The first step is to examine the locality's needs. Whether an area is highly
urbanized, with recurring traffic congestion, or rural, with traffic problems
occurring only during major incidents, will determine the focus and extent of
planning for freeway incidents.
The second step is to identify those public and private resources available to
the locality that have a vested interest in transportation planning and safety.
Once these various agencies and services are identified, a request is made for
each to supply a command-level person to attend an initial conference.
The focus of the first meeting is on consensus building and deter-mining that
traffic incidents are a problem and that, by acting in concert, time-saving
policies can be implemented within each agency.
During the next phase, a working group is established to identify tasks,
resources, and existing capabilities of each entity focusing particularly on
jurisdiction, agency perspective and responsibilities, interagency field
communication, administrative coordination among agencies, legal ramifications,
site management, political sensitivity, consensus building and goal setting.
In these early stages, the group determines how best to use existing resources
to improve detection, verification, response, clearance, and recovery of
freeway incidents. To assist states and localities in accomplishing these
tasks, the FHWA makes available a four-hour upper management overview and a
two-day workshop for practitioners, detailing step-by-step methods to create
and implement FIM plans and response teams. You can access these services by
contacting your FHWA state coordinator.
Freeway Incident Management can be broken down into seven components:
pre-planning, detection and verification, response time, site management,
clearance time, motorists' information, and recovery time.
- When an incident occurs, the focus of FIM is to keep the traffic
moving. Alternative route plans should be identified, specifying not only
location but also the resources necessary to expedite traffic movement. Simply
diverting traffic from the freeway to local surface streets is not enough,
since traffic signals, stop signs, toll booths, or high-occupancy vehicle
restrictions may interfere with the free movement of traffic. To remove these
impediments, it may be necessary to make signal timing changes or to provide
for manual traffic direction.
Planning for these problems will identify the resources needed and save 30 to
40 minutes of on-scene planning. This time savings in the initial stages of an
incident equals a 90- to 120-minute reduction in traffic congestion after the
incident has been cleared.
Management of an incident and the surrounding traffic problems is a
team effort, and each agency has a specific role to play. Planning minimizes
on-scene conflict and confusion, as well as redundant requests for additional
2. Detection and Verification
- Once an incident is brought to the attention of the agencies responsible for
maintaining safety and traffic flow, it is necessary to separate real incidents
from false alarms and to determine the exact nature of the incident. The speed
with which an incident can be detected and verified directly affects the amount
of time required to respond to and clear the incident and restore traffic to
its normal flow.
Fast, accurate detection often results in reduced traffic disruption and
greater cost savings. Options to consider are CCTV cameras, CB radio
monitoring, incident call-in lines for use by drivers with cellular phones, and
visual observations through peak-period motorcycle patrols and dedicated
freeway service patrols. Although more expensive options are
availableincluding aircraft patrol, electronic loop detectors, and
central information processing and control sites (traffic management
centers)initial planning for FIM should focus on maximizing existing
resources and providing low-cost enhancements.
3. Response Time
- Police and fire/rescue vehicles have an advantage when responding to an
incident. They are equipped with emergency lights and sirens that assist their
operators in navigating through traffic. Initial response by these agencies is
already fast. However, the thrust of incident management response is aimed at
getting the appropriate equipment and resources to the scene. Support agency
vehiclestypically not equipped with emergency lights and sirenslack
the legal authority to respond at the same speed as police and fire vehicles.
Alternate routes must be developed for these vehicles.
Response to major incidents is thus implemented through the planning process,
where personnel available for major incident response are already identified
beforehand. Often, police agencies think in terms of patrol officers as being
the only ones to respond. In many agencies, however, a variety of officers
could be called upon to assist in major traffic incidentsthose normally
assigned to educational, analytical or specialty units (such as Warrant Service
or SWAT officers), for example. A list of personnel resources for all agencies
must be established.
Consider such questions as where to find large front-end loaders to remove
spilled cargo or construction barricades. Can auxiliary light units be found
and moved to the scene? Where can asphalt be obtained at 2:00 a.m? A list of
these resources, their locations, and contact persons should be maintained.
Assigning officers and service patrols to congested road sections during
peak-use periods will reduce the travel time in that area once an incident has
been detected. When assigned to a patrol area that includes a high-incident
section of freeway, an officer can be directed to patrol the freeway during
peak-use periods, when not on another call for service. Transportation
departments can assign maintenance personnel to patrol tasks during peak-use
periods. These actions will create greater patrol of congested areas and
prevent routine maintenance activity from being conducted during peak-use
Training of all personnel of the agencies involved in incident
management creates a greater awareness of each individual's role in incident
clearance. When properly trained, workers know what their tasks will be and can
begin executing activities in accordance with the FIM plan for the specific
incident.A direct correlation exists between effective interagency communications and
reduced response time. Transportation offi-cials must be able to communicate
with police or fire/rescue personnel on the scene to determine the correct
response. Radio or cellular telephones can be used to relay response
information to avoid delay, or make detailed requests for specific equipment
and personnel from other agencies. Communications is particularly important
when planned alternate routes must be modified due to construction or incident
events (such as chemical fumes passing from incident site to alternate
Each local FIM planning team should consider pre-staged equip-ment storage
areas, administrative traffic management teams, public education programs,
central information, processing and control sites, and better identification of
exact locations on freeways (more frequent mile-post markers, for example).
Like other facets of FIM, these must be evaluated as to cost, practicality,
frequency of use, and overall benefit. Each planning team must select the
options that work best in its locality, implement the procedures, and refine
3. Site Management
- The effectiveness of any incident response is directly related to the
management at the scene. A well-managed response based on a less effective
technique may be more successful than a superior technique that is
Incidents involving a single agency response require only that the personnel
understand their own duties and are effectively supervised. Multi-agency
response on the other hand, compounds the issue of site management. Each agency
must understand not only its own role and tasks but also the other agency's
responsibilities. This creates a need for coordination and control which
increases as the incident becomes more complex.
Administrators at the highest level of each agency must instill in subordinates
the belief that fast, efficient and cooperative problem resolution is the
primary goal. In the absence of such an attitude, turf wars can
develop that will inhibit incident resolution.
A variety of methods can be used to coordinate and control multiple-agency
response to incident resolution. The most effective method is to recognize from
the outset that each agency must have its own operational command post, which
reports to a centralized command post comprised of command or decision-making
personnel who are not involved in the actual operational tasks of their
Established to coordinate and facilitate the activities of the individual
agencies, the centralized command post would not attempt to tell a fire
department how to manage a fire in a tractor trailer but would be responsible
for ensuring that DOT equipment was properly staged to repair the road surface
after the fire had been extinguished. It would also ensure that equipment
needed to mark alternate routes was delivered and placed properly. Finally, the
centralized command post could serve as the contact point for media information
and motorists' advisories, so that conflicting information would not be
5. Clearance Time
- During incident clearance, the vehicles or debris are removed from the roadway
so that they no longer present a hazard or distraction to motorists.
Inappropriate or insufficient response of personnel or equipment will greatly
lengthen the time needed to clear an incident from the road. On the other hand,
clearance times can be reduced by such simple steps as giving directions for
access to the site or providing a police escort for wreckers.
Clearance also refers to the sweeping or loading of debris deposited as a
result of the incident. In most areas, towing and clearance are the
responsibility of the wrecker company removing the vehicle. Police agencies
usually request wreckers either by contract
or a rotation list; the latter method may perhaps result in an
undertrained or minimally equipped wrecker responding to a call for service.
Care must be taken to ensure that the wrecker companies on the list meet
minimal equipment specifications and the operators of wrecker/recovery
equipment are trained in the use of the apparatus.
Requests for wrecker services should specify the number, size, weight, load and
types of vehicles to be removed, as well as the amount of damage and whether or
not the vehicle is overturned. Maximum response times for the arrival of
wrecker equipment at the scene should be identified as part of the requirements
to be included in a wrecker rotation list or contract.
The nature or scope of the incident may require public agencies to help with
removing the debris or vehicle. A spilled load of plywood would require a
loader machine to move it quickly out of the way. Because a DOT loader is often
more accessible than a private contractor's, it should be brought to the scene
and put to use while the wrecker company is removing the vehicle.
Clearance time is reduced by coordinated multi-agency action during the
clean-up phase. A wrecker company can be hooking the vehicles to tow trucks
while the DOT uses a loader to remove large debris (such as a spilled load of
gravel) and the fire department washes the minute pieces of debris to the
6. Motorist Information
- Often, when motorists are caught in the initial backup of an incident, they
will devise their own alternatives. Some may attempt to drive on the shoulders
of the road and thereby take the shoulder access away from responding emergency
vehicles. Once at a dead stop and in a long backup, some motorists will leave
their vehicles and walk to the incident site to see what is causing their
delay. Even worse, they may abandon their vehicles and walk to telephones
located off the freeway to advise family or child care providers of their
As soon as practical, motorists must be told the reason for the delay and the
location of the incident. Those not already at the site should be advised how
to avoid the congestion. If they are expected to stay on designated alternate
routes, motorists must be confident that these routes are visible and clearly
marked. Persons unavoidably caught in a traffic backup, sometimes for hours,
must be assured that public officials are working to free them from the
circumstances. They should also be told how to obtain assistance if they
Traffic jams caused by major incidents may dictate the need to provide water,
fuel or emergency medical assistance. In one major backup in Virginia, more
than 1,000 vehicles were stopped between exits for nearly 2-1/2 hours in
100-degree heat. During the clearing phase, 17 vehicles required fuel or
booster starts, one motorist suffered a heart attack, and a baby was
There are many means by which motorists can be advised of the nature of the
problem, alternate routes, and any specific instructions. Some examples include
commercial radio stations, fixed and portable variable message boards, detour
route signs, highway advisory radio systems, and vehicle-mounted public address
7. Recovery Time
- Recovery time occurs after the roadway obstruction has been removed and all
lanes are reopened for travel. Calculated to end when normal traffic conditions
return, recovery time is enhanced by leaving diversion traffic control in place
until the main roadway is again operating at a normal pace. Too often, traffic
control procedures are dismantled as soon as the wrecker pulls off with the
crashed vehicles. To be truly effective, traffic management must continue until
the congestion has dissipated.
Incident management is a constant and dynamic process. A plan is devised,
implemented during an incident, and finally reviewed afterwards for
effectiveness. Most public safety agencies conduct after-action critiques of
major incidents; police departments after SWAT operations; fire departments
after major fires. The same review must be conducted for freeway incidents.
Each agency must examine its own response. Then, each agency commander must
meet and discuss the efficiency of their interaction with the other agencies
Public and media criticisms of the incident should also be exa-mined. News
articles, editorials and letters to the editor or to politicians will identify
the perceived strengths or weakness of the response. The team must review all
these sources, honestly evaluate the group effort, and modify the plan as
With the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, resources
from FHWA and NHTSA are available for states and localities to create incident
management plans and teams.
or more information on a step-by-step approach to incident management systems,
ontact David Hellman, Federal Highway Administration, Room 6311, Nassiff
uilding, 400 Seventh St., SW, Washington DC 20590, regarding the FHWA
orkshop, Relieving Congestion Through Incident Management,
emon-stration Project 86.
Incident Command System
An issue for law enforcement is knowing how to manage frequent, complex
emergency incidents effectively while avoiding the problems associated with
past responses. The National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS) and
its on-scene management component, the Incident Command System (ICS), offer the
greatest potential for law enforcement application.
Genesis of the System
The ICS and its successor, the NIIMS, evolved from FIRESCOPE, a project in
Southern California organized for potential emergencies in the early 1970s. A
series of wild-land fires in 1970 in a seven-county area made it apparent that
federal, state and local jurisdictions had no management mechanism or resources
to allow effective response to wildfire emergencies, which recognize no
jurisdictional boundaries. Funded by the United States Congress, FIRESCOPE was
chartered to assist Southern California fire service agencies in multi-agency
coordination of emergencies involving multiple jurisdictions and exceeding a
single jurisdiction's capabilities. The project developed two interrelated and
independent systems, the ICS and the Multi-Agency Coordination System (MACS).
Incident Command System
ICS operates on both conceptual and operational levels. At the conceptual
level, it represents agreement on common organization and terminology for
multi-agency personnel to manage resources and activities efficiently at
incidents involving two or more emer-gency response agencies. ICS encompasses
not only fire emergencies but all natural and technological emergencies, from
earthquakes to hazardous materials transportation incidents and civil
disturbances. ICS works with, and parallel to, the MACS in defining and
focusing information collection, processing and distributing resulting data,
and identifying related human and material resource needs. Its effectiveness
depends on voluntarily accepting its terminology and concepts into the daily
operation of each agency, from handling of routine, single-agency incidents to
complex, multi-agency operations.
Multi-Agency Coordination System
MACS is a coordinating process involving top agency managers. It integrates the
collection, processing, and dissemination of information necessary in
multi-agency operations, and provides for rapid allocation of required
resources during major incidents.
National Interagency Incident Management System
The NIIMS, which became operational in 1982, evolved from and built upon the
systems developed from the FIRESCOPE project. Publications providing
explanations and details of the system are available from the National Fire
Academy in Emmetsburg, Maryland.
The ICS was developed and designed to meet a number of criteria critical to
effective incident management, including the capability to provide for single
jurisdiction/single agency involvements; single jurisdiction/multiple agency
involvements; and multi-jurisdiction/ multiple agency involvement. The
organizational structure is adaptable to any emergency or incident, is
applicable and acceptable to emergency responders throughout the country, and
readily adaptable to new technology. It provides the ability to expand an
operation logically from a single-unit response on up,
with common elements and organization, terminology, and procedures. It
can be implemented with the least possible disruption to existing systems.
ICS consists of eight components utilized interactively. These components
include common terminology, modular organization, integrated communications,
unified command structure, consoli-dated action plans, manageable span of
control, predesignated incident facilities, and comprehensive resources management.
ICS consists of five major functional areas: command, operations, planning,
logistics, and finance/administration. Through these major functions and
subordinate functions in each category, the incident commander has all the
management tools necessary to handle any size or type of emergency.
Law Enforcement Application
ICS is readily adaptable to law enforcement and other emergency response
disciplines. Since its adaptation by the San Bernardino, California Sheriffs
Department in the early 1980s, law enforcement agencies began recognizing its
value in managing police emergencies. It was successfully used to manage the
July 1989 DC-10 airliner crash in Sioux City, Iowa, and the October 1989 Loma
Prieta earthquake in California.
In the Sioux City incident, which resulted in over 100 deaths and numerous
injuries, rescue operation supervisors claimed that one of the most important
factors contributing to the successful management of this emergency was the use
of an ICS.
During the Loma Prieta earthquake, which affected a significant area from
Oakland to Santa Cruz some 75 miles to the south, emergency crews began to
respond from hundreds of miles away, many without any type of formal request.
The ICS system was integral to managing this massive disaster response, as a
planned procedure in some jurisdictions and conceptually in others. It provided
a more organized and systematic structure for the management of the large
volume of resources that assembled for the incident. Many jurisdictions
operated under the ICS unified command structure,
while law enforcement, the fire service, and other
emergency response disciplines shared management responsibility for emergency
Adaptation and Training
The key to the success of law enforcement ICS is the ability to modify and
adapt the system to regional and law enforcement needs while keeping it
completely compatible with the fire service. For effective and efficient
operations to occur, the management mechanism of major emergency response
disciplines (fire, law enforcement, EMS, and transportation departments) must
have readily interchangeable and recognizable components and terminology.
Unlike the fire service, which is likely to have a company officer and several
firefighters responding to an incident on a given piece of apparatus, law
enforcement response generally consists of a single officer/single patrol unit.
This reduced manpower situation requires the initial police responder to
perform both command and tactical functions (in a simple motor vehicle
accident, this would be overall management and investigation), unlike the fire
service response, whereby the company officer assumes command and subordinate
personnel perform the tactical functions. To adapt the ICS system successfully,
police personnel must be trained and ICS must be integrated into daily
The effectiveness of ICS training increases when an integrated approach
involves regional law enforcement agencies and representatives of other
emergency disciplines. This enhances closer working relationships and on-scene
coordination and cooperation. Training conducted by the Massachusetts State
Police includes not only state police supervisors but also representatives from
other law enforcement agencies, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation
and Turnpike Authority, representatives of towing associations, Port Authority
supervisors, and representatives of other emergency response providers.
Interagency relations have been improved, and the concept of teamwork, vital to
the management of complex incidents, has been established and reinforced.
Traffic Management and ICS
Typical traffic incidents consist of disabled vehicles, accidents, or load
spillages. They are a major cause of traffic congestion. The FHWA estimates
that the nation loses 1.3 billion vehicle-hours of delay due to incident
congestion each year, at a loss of nearly 10 billion dollars. This figure does
not take into consideration the economic cost of wasted fuel and environmental
damage by vehicles idling in incident-related queues. Congestion can be
minimized by clearing incidents as quickly as possible and diverting traffic
before vehicles are caught in the incident queue. The time saved by an ICS
program depends on how well the four stages of an incidentdetection and
verification, response, clearance, and recoveryare managed.
The ICS is the most effective and efficient on-scene management process
available to law enforcement agencies today. It is particularly applicable to
the response, clearance and recovery stages of traffic incident management. Its
concepts of initial scene control and management, integrated operations, and
teamwork approach result in reduced clearance times for traffic incidents of
all types. This reduction mitigates the effects of traffic congestion at the
incident site. Major traffic accidents and hazardous material spills require
the participation and expertise of numerous emergency response disciplines. ICS
provides a mechanism for these disciplines to work together in an integrated
and coordinated manner, toward a shared goal of rapid incident clearance.
ICS As An All-Risk System
In addition to its effectiveness at highway transportation incidents, the ICS
has evolved into an all-risk management process for all types of emergencies
and all law enforcement activities. Response to the natural and technological
disasters, civil disturbances, security and crowd control details, and the
entire gamut of law enforcement activities can be managed through the ICS
implementation and use. The ICS is a widely accepted tool among law enforcement
agencies because it is logical and easy to implement yet still compatible with
the ICS utilized by fire and other primary emergency response disciplines. It has
been accepted and endorsed by the IACP Highway Safety Advisory Committee as the
preferred method of handling major highway emergencies.
Abandoned Vehicles and Shoulder Collisions
Each year, thousands of vehicles break down and are left abandoned on highway
shoulders. Law enforcement officers have long considered these abandoned
vehicles as traffic hazards, regardless of how far off the road or how short a
time they are allowed to remain. If the Washington State Patrol had its way,
any abandoned vehicle would be defined as a traffic hazard. Although this
position may sound extreme to the motorist who runs out of gas on the way to
work, it is not without good cause.
Over a ten-year period, Washington State experienced more than 3,000 collisions
involving abandoned vehiclesresulting in 40 deaths, 1,774 injuries and
nearly 36 million dollars in economic loss. Police efforts to remove these
vehicles have been hampered by the issue of property rights, weak impound
legislation, and a general resistance on the part of the courts and the public
to recognize abandoned vehicles as traffic hazards.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has stated, Millions of
dollars are spent each year to make highways safer and the roadside features
more forgiving to errant drivers. Why, then, do we tolerate parked or abandoned
vehicles to remain along our highways for extended periods of time? We have
designed standards that require a 'clear zone' on limited access highways.
Nothing can be placed in this zone without providing protection to the motorist
in the form of a guardrail, barrier, crash cushions, or break-away supports.
Yet, we allow heavy vehicles to stand a few feet or even inches from the
The prompt removal of abandoned vehicles is necessary in the interest of
traffic safety; however, because removal involves a tow bill for the vehicle's
owner, the issue has always been controversial.
A motorist who runs out of gas and is going to return in
a few hours becomes upset to learn that the police removed the vehicle and he
must now pay a tow company to recover the vehicle. Yet the same motorist who
balks at paying the tow bill is first in line to file a claim against the state
for failure to protect when he discovers his vehicle has been
vandalized, stolen, or damaged.
In Washington, state law allows a 24-hour grace period for vehicles stopped
along the roadway before they are deemed to be a traffic hazard. Although
several state laws forbid such stopping and standing, this rule clouds the
The Washington State Supreme Court supported abandoned vehicle impoundment when
it ruled that police impounds were appropriate as a part of a police
community caretaking function, if the removal of the vehicle was
necessary in that it was abandoned, impeded traffic, or posed a threat to
public safety and convenience. Even with this judicial support, however,
resistance has persisted in the lower courts. When an officer makes a decision
to impound, the agency risks paying the tow bill. In one year alone, the
Washington State Patrol paid more than $21,000 for 160 tow bills at the
direction of the courts.
The Washington State Patrol has explored the relationship between aggressive
impound policies and shoulder collision rates. In 1985, the impound policy was
more lenient in response to public pressure and judicial rulings. In 1986, a
more aggressive policy encouraged impoundment if the trooper judged a vehicle
to be a traffic hazard. Shoulder collision rates in three counties in the Puget
Sound metropolitan area decreased 18.3 percent by the end of the year.
Problem Areas Identified
To document the problem of abandoned vehicles, the Washington State Patrol
conducted a study focusing on four areas of concern:
- Whether or not stopped, parked, or abandoned vehicles in the right-of-way of
limited access highways jeopardize public safety.
- Agency impound policies
- State highway shoulder collision rates
- Court reaction to law enforcement-initiated impoundment of abandoned
Analysis quickly identified three problem areas in analyzing interstate
shoulder collision data over a nine-year period:
- Shoulder collision rates on urban interstate highways were extremely high
compared to rural interstate highways.
- Injury rates for shoulder collisions were substantially higher than the
rates for all other accident categories.
- The average age of vehicles struck was 9.6 years
The study noted that 70 percent of all shoulder collisions had occurred in the
state's three most populous counties; 41 percent involved injuries.
The study recommended a two-hour impound policy for all abandoned vehicles on
limited access highways where the speed limit was 55 mph or less, and four
hours for all other limited access highways. It also suggested urban areas
should post restric-tive signs advising that abandoned vehicles were subject to
Following the study, the state Department of Transportation looked at the
shoulder collision problem again and found that, over a 7-year period, 3,165
shoulder collisions had occurred on interstate,
limited access, or other state highways; 57 percent of them occurred in
urban areas, 43 percent in rural areas. Additionally, 55 percent occurred at
night. These collisions caused 40 deaths and 1,774 injuries. These findings
reinforced the need to remove abandoned vehicles in all areas, urban and rural,
day and night.
Determining Impound Policies
When considering any state's liability in determining impound policies, a
catch-22 situation clearly arises. If vehicles are promptly
impounded, the accident potential is reduced, but the state's likelihood of
paying a contested tow bill increases. If vehicles are not promptly removed and
are vandalized or struck, the state's liability is even greater when the
relatively small cost of a tow bill is compared with potentially large costs of
wrongful death or serious injury lawsuits. One wrongful death award can cost
the state much more than paying hundreds of $100 toll bills.
Police departments who patrol high-speed highways should choose the most
aggressive impound policy that is legal, in order to protect the public
interest and reduce liability. An aggressive public information campaign can
help raise awareness of the abandoned vehicle problem. Additionally, law
enforcement agen-cies should lobby their legislatures to request changes to
eliminate length grace periods contained in motor vehicle codes.
Agencies that fail to develop and enforce impound policies may face
court-imposed costs, and shoulder collision rates likely will rise, thereby
increasing the agencys potential liability. It is hoped that sufficient
evidence is now available to convince court officials, the public, and police
administrators that vehicles abandoned anywhere upon highway right-of-ways are
hazardous to the public safety.
Reducing Crime in Rest Areas
Law enforcement agencies throughout the country are plagued with rest area
crimes. These crimes irritate and annoy the public, make them fearful, and
frequently harm tourism.
The first step in attacking the problem is to determine the crime problem, its
location, and extent and to identify or profile the people causing these
Developing a Plan
To develop a plan to eliminate rest area crime, law enforcement must coordinate
efforts with other agencies, such as the DOT or the Department of Parks and
Resources, that manage the rest areas. It is important to elicit the opinions
and support of the officers on patrol and the personnel of these other
agencies. We should consider multiple concepts to eliminate crime, including
the installation of signs, rest area maintenance, officer and citizen awareness
campaigns, and enforcement. Goals and objectives should be set for any plan and
should correspond with the police department's mission and goals.
Crimes occurring in rest areas include prostitution, homosexual activity,
vandalism, thefts of abandoned vehicles, open-air drug markets, panhandling,
vagrancy, car jacking, and car-clouting.
Establishing Operational Procedures
When a plan has been devised, the department needs to establish the operational
procedures to carry it out. One of the first steps is to set up a covert
surveillance in order to determine the extent of the problem and the specific
behavior to be targeted. Typically, a covert surveillance will reveal such problems as an
extraordinary number of men cruising in cars or on foot and seeking sex with
other men. Often these men will be openly drinking or using narcotics in
public, exposing themselves, vandalizing the toilet areas with graffiti, and
cutting holes in toilet walls. Illicit sex acts, homeless persons using rest
areas for a place to live, and criminals lying in wait to commit a crime of
opportunity will soon be observed, along with their intended victims, the
motoring publictourists, travelers, and truck drivers who use the rest
areas for their intended purposes.
Once information is obtained from covert surveillance, it is best to solicit
volunteer officers to perform an undercover enforcement operation. Planning
should go into such areas as the type of clothing undercover officers will
wear; the number and location of backup officers and when they will be
deployed; various communications signals and emergency signals; the role of the
supervisor; tactics to be used in contacting subjects, arrest procedures
including bookings, transportation, and issuing citations; providing undercover
officers with false identification, tactics and strategies; notification of
patrol commanders and working units that an undercover operation is in
progress; subtle identification means undercover officers can use to identify
themselves to on-duty officers; and any necessary equipment for the
The most important step prior to implementing a rest area enforcement operation
is training all the persons involved. This training should focus on the laws to
be enforced (elements of the crime), descriptions/profiles of targeted
individuals, areas, and crimes, communications procedures, equipment use, and
guidelines for arrest, supervision, and operational procedures.
Implementing the Operation
Immediately prior to beginning the operation, all involved officers should be
gathered for a thorough briefing and be identified to one another. Any
equipment, such as a surveillance van and video, should be checked to ensure it
is in proper working condition. The laws of arrest and entrapment and preferred
methods of making an arrest while out of uniform should be reviewed.
Typically, arrests will be made for such offenses as patronizing a prostitute,
public indecency, possession of a controlled substance, minors in possession of
alcohol, possession of drug paraphernalia, open containers of alcohol in a
motor vehicle, DUI, and other traffic offenses.
Following each shift and at the conclusion of the operation, a critique should
be held for not only the officers and their supervisors but also other agencies
involved, such as the DOT and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Participants
should brainstorm on how the operation worked and how it can be improved. All
participants should have an opportunity to express their ideas.
Collection and Analysis of Data
Reporting procedures should be established at the beginning of the operation
and carefully followed. Data should be input and analyzed to determine the
effectiveness of the operation and to defend against possible later public
Monitoring Rest Areas for Further Problems
Once covert operations have ceased, officers on routine patrol, as well as DOT
employees and others, should be impressed with the necessity for continued
monitoring of the rest areas and notifying supervisors if illegal activities
reappear. A brief, intensive period of enforcement will have a halo
effect for a few weeks or months, but unless the operation is repeated from
time to time, the problems will reappear.
What Departments Have Learned
Some departments, such as the Washington State Patrol, have had great success
in implementing rest area enforcement operations. A great deal can be learned
from the experience of these agencies. Some of the things that the Washington
State Patrol identified include the following:
- More than six hours of training is required to prepare officers adequately
for this type of operation.
- Not everyone can play the role of decoy. Troopers who have worked their
entire careers in uniform and in marked cars may find it difficult pretending
to be a male prostitute; few can play this role effectively. Most are
uncomfortable, especially when they must listen to men talk about sexual
experiences, likes and dislikes. Nobody likes working the toilets, looking for
open sex acts or men exposing themselves. In addition, they are
sometimes subjected to ridicule and joking by their peers. Officers can
become burned out very quickly; for this reason, all officers assigned to these
programs must be volunteers and be rotated as frequently as necessary.
- By beginning the program with undercover surveillance before arrests are
made, you will learn that certain times, much more than others, are productive
for working rest areas.
- Men seeking sex will be found at the rest areas both
day and night. Sometimes, there will be so many that it is over-powering for
the officers. Suspects are easily spooked, but they come back. A rest area can
be cleaned out, but thirty minutes later it will be full again. Some persons
seeking male prostitutes will parade the sidewalks, while others will hang
around picnic table areas or cruise the woods. Open sex acts may occur in both
these locations. Other people will loiter or sit in the toilets for long
periods of time, and open masturbation and oral sex acts can be observed. All
males seeking sex at rest areas seem to park their cars at the rest areas for
very long periods of time, some for hours. Very few will be willing to pay
money for sex.
- The most common forms of vandalism are spray painting mirrors; scratching
phone numbers on the walls, mirrors, and toilet stalls; placing graffiti and
phone numbers on walls with black grease markers; and cutting holes in the
walls of stalls. An inexpensive solution to the latter problem is to have DOT
place stainless steel panels over walls to prevent the holes from being cut.
- Vandalism to the rest area grounds will include holes cut in chain link
fencing, trees broken off, trails through brush which disturb vegetation, and
littering the area with beer cans and bottles, used condoms, needles and
syringes, used toilet tissue, and pornographic magazines.
- Alcohol and narcotics use will consist of drinking in public, personal use
of marijuana, and the use of harder drugs.
- Problems with vagrants and homeless people will include people living in
their cars in the rest areas and attempting to beg money, food and drinks
from rest area patrons. Some of these people
are frightening in appearance and tend to scare away tourists. Because of First
Amendment considerations, it is generally recommended that prosecutors or
departmental legal advisors be involved in the planning stages of the operation
to determine to what extent homeless people can be removed from the rest
- Moving traffic violations are abundant and may occur so often that there
will not be enough officers to contact all violators. These offenses include
improper or unsafe backing (usually by a lone male driver looking for a better
place to sit) and driving the wrong way (usually involving a lone male looking
for a partner). When the rest area is so full of vehicles with lone male
drivers, incoming drivers must turn and go the wrong way in order to find a
place to park on the travel trailer side of the rest area. Because of the open
container and drinking-in-public violations, officers should also look for
DUIs. Parking violations are usually caused by over-full rest areas or by
people looking for places to park where they won't be bothered by men seeking
- Because of the multitude of problems which appear, it is best to enforce
all violations occurring at rest areas. In this way, the maximum deterrent
effect is realized.
Organizing the Detail
In a busy rest area, it is advisable to have as many as six officers on an
assignment, set up in teams, with each team assigned with a decoy and
surveillance person. The surveillance person is responsible for keeping all of
the members aware of the decoy's whereabouts and activities at all times. A
marked unit, if available, would be assigned to the program to provide
transportation to jail for those arrested. If an extra marked unit is not
available, then nearby officers should be notified of the operation, and a
marked unit called to assist in booking suspects. Because of the wide use of
police radio scanners, officers must be extremely circumspect in radio
transmissions affecting the operation.
With a six-person team, one officer is given the assignment of being a decoy
and allowing men to approach him and discuss sex, while three additional
officers, a detective, and a supervisor provide surveillance and look for other
The decoy, during his conversation with suspects, tells them that he charges
for his servicesthat he only plays for pay. When an offer of
a specific sex act with an agreement for a fee is reached, the suspect is
arrested for prostitution. The decoy may or may not allow the suspect to touch
him, and, if he does so, only the arm, shoulder, or leg area should be touched.
Officers playing the role of decoy should not allow themselves to be touched in
the area of the groin or buttocks.
Decoys should tell suspects who try to touch them that they do not allow
themselves to be touched prior to payment. If touched in the groin area, they
should immediately tell the suspect to stop. If the suspect continues, he
should be arrested for assault or a similar offense that prohibits unprivileged
Unit members not playing the role of decoy should be told to arrest anyone who
touches them in the groin area or anywhere they do not want to be touched,
especially while using the toilet facilities or areas where it is known that
sexual practices occur.
Supervisors should review each arrest and determine whether or not the
officer has probable cause to book the suspect or issue a citation and release
the individual on a written promise to appear.
Information on arrests should be logged into a computerized program, and as a
suspect goes through the court system, the arresting officer should be notified
of the case disposition, which is then added to the computer file.
Each officer assigned to surveil a decoy should be equipped with a portable
radio that communicates with the other officers and the command post. Each
decoy should have a pre-arranged signal to alert the surveillance officer and
others when an arrest is to be made. The surveillance officer is responsible
for keeping super-visors and others aware of the decoy's whereabouts at all
Departments should not overlook the advantages to be gained by effective media
coverage of efforts to clean up rest areas. At the same time, a department
contemplating such a program must be aware it is absolutely essential to
conduct it in such a manner that does not penalize persons for lifestyle
choices but, rather, focuses on illegal sexual behavior that is harmful to the
Preventing Wrong-Way Accidents on Freeways
In some localities, many serious accidents result from wrong-way driving on
freeways, and the prevention of these violations becomes an important public
According to a report issued by the California Department of Transportation's
Division of Traffic Operations, half of the wrong-way driving on freeways
results from deliberate, illegal U-turns. Measures taken to improve ramp
operation would not affect this half of the wrong-way problem.
For the other half, none of the physical barriers tested to date appear
appropriate. Methods other than physical barriers have, however, proved helpful
in decreasing incidents of wrong-way driving.
Effective treatments include repainting or adding wrong-way pavement arrows;
reorienting, moving, or adding wrong-way sign packages; modifying the
trail-blazing freeway entrance packages; placing edge lines in pavement
markings; upgrading signs of high-intensity reflective sheeting; and modifying
Occasionally, more extensive measures can be used to solve the problem at
unique locations, including airport-type pavement lights, modifying the design
of ramp terminals, and adding ramps to incomplete interchanges.
Important to note is that three-quarters of the fatal wrong-way accidents are
caused by drivers involved with alcohol or drugs. This fact presents a
difficult challenge in terms of developing appropriate engineering solutions.
Additional wrong-way pavement arrows may be beneficial. The use of
larger Do not enter signs may be considered if an off-ramp
continues to have a problem.
Larger, highly reflective signs may be helpful for confused or elderly drivers.
Using red pavement lights activated by wrong-way drivers may be considered at
locations where traditional treatment is not effective. The condition of
wrong-way signing packages at off-ramps and directional signs is important.
Always consider the option of using a second set of wrong-way and Do not
enter signs and wrong-way arrows farther along an off-ramp. The option of
using additional signs and markings on selected ramps may give drivers a second
chance to realize that they are headed the wrong way before they enter the
Results of Studies
Because wrong-way accidents are tragic, they have been under intensive study by
the California Department of Transportation for over 30 years. Wrong-way fatal
crashes account for about three percent of the fatal crashes on California
freeways, and about 5 percent of the fatalities.
Remedial Measures Taken
Wrong-way signs and 24-foot white wrong-way pavement arrows have been developed
and installed on many of California's freeways. White-on-green freeway entrance
signs at either side of on-ramp entrances have also been posted to aid
motorists in finding the correct way onto the freeway. Further studies on
wrong-way sign colors indicate that white-on-red is seen the earliest of any
color; thus, the Do not enter and the Wrong way signs
should both be red and white. In fact, these signs and pavement arrows were
adopted as a national standard in 1967 in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control
Do not enter signs should be located low enough for good
visibility to the headlights of vehicles entering the wrong way.
Camera surveillance reveals that the most effective corrections for wrong-way
movements include the installation of freeway entrance signs at on-ramps, and
Do not enter and Wrong way signs at off-ramps; posting
supplementary trail-blazing signs and extra lighting at on-ramps; reducing the
off-ramp throat opening, and eliminating the free right turn from the
More than half the fatal and injury crashes occur at locations where sight
distance is less than 1,200 feet on mainline freeway lines. A few types of
ramps and interchanges, such as the cul-de-sac, buttonhook, trumpet, and
two-leaf clover have a greater number of wrong-way accidents than other types.
Also, left-hand off-ramps can appear to be on-ramps to the wrong-way driver and
should be avoided during design and construction.
California has installed red-backed reflective pavement markers on the lane
lines on freeways, and the Department of Motor Vehicles has educated the public
to the concept that the driver who sees red reflectors is going the wrong way.
Because these reflectors have proven to be of limited value with drunk drivers,
they are now installed only in the vicinity of off-ramps as a secondary
Parking lot spike barriers have been tested to determine if they could be used
at off-ramps to stop vehicles from entering the wrong way; however, they were
found unsuitable. The spikes, even when modified in shape, would not cause
tires to deflate quickly enough to prevent a vehicle from entering the freeway.
Under high-volume traffic the spikes broke, leaving stubs that would damage the
tires of right-way vehicles. It was believed that some right-way drivers, upon
seeing the spiked barriers, would hit their brakes and create a hazardous
California designed movable gates to bar traffic from high occupancy vehicle
lanes. The gates are designed to stop even the heaviest vehicle; however, they
take approximately 20 seconds to lower or raisefar too slow for a
wrong-way vehicle entering a ramp. With the present state of the art, gates are
not appropriate for retaining a wrong-way vehicle.
Georgia has tested a pump-up device that presents a physical curb-like
barrier to the wrong-way driver, but it was found unsuitable for reasons
similar to those of the spike barriers.
California tried adding horns and flashing red lights over the wrong-way signs,
but these were found to be ineffective and drew complaints from neighbors.
One device that did show promise was red, airport-type pavement lights,
embedded in the pavement across an off-ramp, activated by wrong-way vehicles.
These were shown by camera monitoring to reduce further wrong-way entries.
About half of the wrong-way drivers at these ramps braked before reaching the
wrong-way sign. Nearly half continued past the signs but braked before the
pavement lights. Some, however, continued past the pavement lights and went out
of view of the camera.
A check of the driving records of typical wrong-way drivers indicate that they
have received more traffic violations and felony convictions and have been
involved in considerably more accidents of all types than the average motorist.
The majority of wrong-way drivers were male. Another complicating
characteristic is that many make intentional U-turns on freewaysthey do
not enter via an off-ramp. Nearly half of the wrong-way crashes are caused by
U-turns, and half from wrong-way entries via off-ramps.
12-1-39 Field reviews must be conducted by transportation officials to make
sure that signs and markings at these locations are in good repair, and that
there are no conditions which could mislead drivers.
High-intensity reflective sheeting for signs can be adopted for wrong-way and
freeway entrance sign replacements and upgrades. Using larger signs also
provides more visibility, especially for elderly drivers. Thermal plastic
pavement wrong-way arrows can be installed. They have high reflectivity and
Synthetic materials have been developed for anti-theft signs in urban areas
with high instances of vandalism, motivated by the aluminum resale value. An
anti-graffiti coating has also been developed. Innovations in reflective
coatings continue to be made. The electronic system for pavement lights should
be carefully selected for its reliability under varying moisture conditions.
Wrong-way accidents show distinct patterns by time of day, a trend that may
have implications for directed patrol enforcement. These crashes peak at around
2 to 3 a.m., although this is more noticeable in the urban areas. The bars are
required by law to close at about this time. The higher traffic volume during
the day in urban areas probably depress the wrong-way crashes during these
hours. Urban areas have a much greater number of wrong-way crashes than rural
State police, highway patrol officers and local police can make a valuable
contribution in combating wrong-way driving.
Most vehicle codes contain provisions such as sobriety, turning movements, and
sign theft, which can be enforced to good advantage by the police.
Crash reports reveal that the typical wrong-way crash is caused by a driver who
is either driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or had been drinking
or consuming drugs. Various police programs can help remove these drivers from
One important program is the Sobriety Checkpoint program. Its aim is to
detect and remove drinking drivers from the road and to reduce alcohol-caused
collisions. In any state in which state law and appellate court decisions allow
the use of sobriety checkpoints, they should be seriously considered as a means
of preventing wrong-way accidents on freeways.
Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety
Police should not overlook intervening variables in traffic safety that can be
affected directly or indirectly by the private sector. For instance, railroads
maintain private roadbeds that intersect more than 160,000 public highways in
the United States. More than 5,000 collisions occur at these intersections each
year, resulting in almost 600 fatalities and 1,800 injuries. A motor
vehicle/train collision is many times more likely to produce fatalities than a
Highway-rail grade crossing traffic enforcement should be given every
consideration in the aggressive pursuit of traffic safety. Collisions that
occur at these intersections usually are a result of motorist inattention or
impatience, which is especially apparent after observing motorist behavior at
Law Enforcement Liaison with Private Sector Traffic Safety Programs
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), using data provided by United States
railroads, maintain a detailed analysis that may prove beneficial to police
when conducting safety studies within their communities. By using this data in
conjunction with programs offered by the private sector, agencies can implement
effective enforcement strategies. Such programs are supported by federal and
state funds, such as the OOT (Officer on the Train) and GCCI (Grade Crossing
Collision Investigation) programs for police.
OOT is a highway-railroad grade crossing safety awareness program coordinated
through a national railroad safety program, Operation Lifesaver, which places
police officers aboard trains to radio traffic violations to other officers
strategically located at or near grade crossings. The selection of these sites
are based on previous collisions and traffic violations.
The GCCI course is a highway-railroad grade crossing safety awareness
program coordinated through the Operation Lifesaver program. Tailored to
specific law enforcement agency needs, the course usually lasts one to three
days and is provided at no cost to the agency.
Section 402 manpower funding may be available from the U.S. Department of
Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for these
Operation Lifesaver is a nationwide, nonprofit public information and education
program dedicated to reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail
grade crossings. You can obtain more information by contacting
Operation Lifesaver, Incorporated 1420 King Street, Suite 401 Alexandria, VA
After vehicle occupants, pedestrians represent the second largest category of
motor vehicle deaths. In a recent year, motor vehicle crashes claimed the lives
of 5,797 pedestrians in the United States. Approximately l00,000 more were
injured. Over a 12-year period, between 14 and 17 percent of all traffic deaths
annually have involved pedestrians.
The loss of human life and suffering caused by these crashes is a serious
national health problem. Each year, the economic cost of salary loss and
medical expenses also amounts to billions of dollars.
The federal government has designated pedestrian safety as one of the national
priority highway safety program areas. Pedestrian safety is a nationwide
concern, and effective countermeasures exist to address the problem. In order
to combat the problem, each law enforcement agency must take the initiative.
Reasons Behind Lax Enforcement
Although pedestrian safety has been identified at the federal level as a
serious problem, it may not be perceived as such at the state and local level.
Many communities are unaware of pedestrian safety issues or are forced to
overlook them because of budget constraints.
Law enforcement activity on pedestrian safety has been limited because of
several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is a significant lack of technical
information available to the law enforcement community. Some departments give
pedestrian law enforcement a low priority because of other demands, such as
violent crime, drug intervention, increased calls for service, or lack of
manpower. In these circumstances, concerned police agencies are faced with the
challenge of creating a demand for enforcement of pedestrian laws within their agencies or communities.
A police agency becomes more involved with pedestrian safety issues for a
variety of reasons, one of the most common of which is a local tragedy. The
publicity surrounding such an event often sends the community to the police for
leadership in solving what may be a pedestrian safety problem. Another reason
for police involvement is the identification of pedestrian issues through the
analysis of accident reports. Whatever the reason, it then becomes time for
someone within the agency to develop expertise in pedestrian safety issues.
Changing Attitudes and Behavior
As with other traffic safety programs, a pedestrian safety law enforcement
program requires using the 3-E (enforcement, education, and
engineering) approach. Changing pedestrian and motorist behaviors and
attitudes about pedestrian
safety is an ongoing process that requires an ongoing commitment. The
commitment will not take a great deal of time nor drain resources, but it will
demonstrate to the community that your police agency takes pedestrian safety
seriously. Other community organizations may be encouraged to follow your lead,
and together you can utilize community policing concepts to improve pedestrian
The Pedestrian Crash Picture
Children, the most inexperienced users of the road system, have nearly 43
percent of the pedestrian accidents although they comprise only 30 percent of
the population. Their resiliency to injury is probably the reason for the
disproportionate percentage of fatalities experienced by this age group. Of the
child pedestrian mishaps, 2.6 percent result in death.
Target Percent of Group Population Total Fatalities Crashes
|Children (0-19) ||28.9% ||42.5%||19.9%|
|Working Adults (20-64)||58.7% ||48.7%||56.6%|
|Older Adults (65+) ||11.95%|| 8.8%||22.3%|
The fact that working adults have years of experience using the road system may
explain why this group, comprising 60 percent of the population, has only 50
percent of the pedestrian crashes. The resiliency of youth fades in this group,
however, and it experiences a fatality rate equal to its population numbers. Of
the mishaps happening to working adults, 6.8 percent result in death.
Older adults have fewer mishaps than would be expected for the size of this age
group due to, perhaps, their many years of experience and a lowered use of the
road system. But a frailty factor likely operates here, and a large percentage
of these mishaps16.1 percent result in fatalities.
When pedestrians are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the results are
usually disastrous. Close to 6,000 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic
crashes, often the result of alcohol use by the pedestrian, the motorist, or
both, plus excessive speed by the motorist. These causes account for almost 15
percent of all annual fatalities.
Males account for about 70 percent of the pedestrian fatalities, making them
over-represented. The male pedestrian fatality rate is 3.24 per l00,000
populationmore than twice the rate for females.
Nearly the same number of pedestrians are killed on weekday days as on weekday
nights; however, weekend nights see almost twice as many pedestrian fatalities
as do weekend days.
Approximately 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. Half of the
victims under 16 years of age are killed in crashes that occur between 3:00
p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Seventy percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas, and 82
percent of fatally injured pedestrians are at non-intersection locations.
People 65 years and older have the highest pedestrian fatality rates and are
more likely to sustain serious injury or death if struck by a motor vehicle.
They account for 18 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.
Twenty-eight percent of annual pedestrian fatalities involve children under the
age of five. Pedestrian mishaps are the single largest cause of death of
children ages 5-9 years. More than 25 percent of the traffic fatalities under
age 16 are pedestrians.
Alcohol involvement, either for the driver or pedestrian, is reported in more
than half of the motor vehicle crashes that result in pedestrian fatalities.
Nearly one-third of the pedestrians involved are intoxicated, with BAC levels
of 0.10 or greater. While the percentage of alcohol-related traffic accidents
involving drivers and passengers in motor vehicles has been steadily declining,
the percentage of alcohol-involved pedestrian accidents has remained relatively
Pedestrian Safety Programs
Commitment by the law enforcement agency's chief executive is essential to the
success of a pedestrian law enforcement program. Involving the community in the
planning and implementation of such a program is equally important.
The goals of a pedestrian safety law enforcement program are to have citizens
be aware of and comply with the pedestrian laws and to have police officers
enforce these laws.
It is only logical to have both the police and the community working together
on a program aimed at citizen behavior. Prob-ably no single organization has a
great deal of time to devote to pedestrian safety; however, by pooling
resources you can have a significant impact.
The method agencies use to train officers placed on traffic assign-ments
enhances the effectiveness of a pedestrian program. Recruit schools and traffic
commanders need to explain and emphasize the reasons why pedestrian law
enforcement is important. They need to sell their officers on enforcement by
using educational efforts.
Suggested training tools for educating police officers about pedestrian law
enforcement include using the same safety messages communicated to the general
public by television, radio, or brochures; placing articles about pedestrian
safety and enforcement concepts in police memos and bulletins; and developing
enforcement videotapes to be shown at roll call.
When issuing a citation to a pedestrian or motorist for a pedestrian
violation, officers should be encouraged to run a check on the violator's
license. The officer may find that the violator is a wanted criminal or is
driving on a suspended license. Officers will then see that they are not only
reducing the pedestrian problem but also responding to other crimes.
For traffic officers to enforce pedestrian laws and be dedicated to the
program, police supervisors must communicate their support and provide positive
reinforcement, and top management must trust its commitment.
Obstacles to Enforcement
Throughout the country, police agencies run into obstacles when trying to
enforce pedestrian laws. These obstacles include a lack of interest or
understanding, the severity of other law enforcement programs, insufficient
training or funding, weak laws governing impaired pedestrians, and inadequate
support from the judicial system, where many judges do not support efforts to
ticket pedestrian safety violators.
By decriminalizing public intoxication, lawmakers intended that public drunks
would be treated rather than punished. However, when that law changed and the
resources directed toward public health facilities for alcohol treatment never
materialized, police officers were left with no permissible law enforcement
response and no places to take public drunks. In some jurisdictions, the
increased emphasis on anti-DWI programs has led to more intoxicated persons on
foot and an increase in the number of alcohol-involved pedestrian crashes.
We can often remove some of the obstacles to pedestrian safety enforcement by
learning from the successes of other jurisdictions. Invite police officers or
commanders from other agencies to explain how pedestrian laws are enforced, and
how tickets are issued in their jurisdictions. Inform judges and prosecutors
about your program and the statistics concerning pedestrian crashes. Involve
members of the judicial system in planning your pedestrian law enforcement
Planning to enforce pedestrian laws where they have not been enforced
before will only lead to resistance unless the public is educated beforehand.
The pedestrian safety program is effective only when it successfully integrates
enforcement, education, and engineering. Once a community has been educated
about pedes-trian safety and understands the importance of following the laws,
it is more likely to support a law enforcement program. Educational programs
can mobilize community support for pedestrian law enforcement, which is crucial
to its success. Ten years ago, people did not expect to be arrested for DWI and
if arrested, expected minimal punishment. Today, DWI is considered a serious
offense and carries serious penalties and a social stigma. The difference often
is attributed to organized public support and demand for enforcement from
groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Educating the public will change attitudes, improve skills, and increase
knowledge about pedestrian safety issues.
Pedestrian Education Issues
Some pedestrians dart out into the street without stopping or looking for
traffic, and others cross at intersections without checking for turning
Pedestrians sometimes do not understand what flashing Don't walk
signals mean. They mean, Continue your trip but do not start if you have
not yet begun. Pedestrians often begin crossing the street as the
Don't walk signal is flashing, instead of waiting for the next
signal cycle. Some pedestrians also disregard crossing signals altogether and
cross the street when they think it is clear.
Pedestrians frequently do not realize the importance of being able to see
motorists as well as being seen by them. Some walk along the roadway in the
direction of traffic and cannot see traffic coming up behind them. Others walk
in the street or along the roadway at night without any reflective clothing.
Pedestrians are unaware of the dangers involved by stepping out of a vehicle
once it has been disabled. When pedestrians step out
of a car, they often walk too closely to the road. When they cross they
may misjudge the speed of oncoming vehicles, especially on high-speed
Children do not perceive moving vehicles in the same way adults do. They
frequently lack the ability to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles.
Pedestrians crossing high-speed roadways or rural roads are often unable to
judge the speed of oncoming vehicles. Some pedestrians walk through parking
lots or pass driveways without looking for moving vehicles.
Crashes usually involve a behavioral error on the part of the pedestrian, the
motorist, or both. Motorists' behavioral errors can be seen in exceeding the
speed limit; failing to slow down when driving through residential areas in
which children are playing; and failing to reduce their speeds on city streets,
in shopping areas, or in the vicinity of crosswalks where pedestrians are
abundant. Many motorists turn without looking for pedestrians crossing their
paths, particularly in right-turn-on-red situations. They ignore the law
requiring them to yield or stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Motorists may back up without checking for pedestrians behind the vehicle, a
particular hazard for delivery trucks calling on house-holds. Also, motorists
may pass stopped vehicles, such as school buses, and thus endanger
Properly planned and sustained enforcement programs and public education make
people adopt intelligent practices for both walking and driving. You can assist
by developing a public information campaign, with a media
packetcontaining information about pedestrian laws, high-risk behaviors,
accident statistics, and particularly dangerous intersections or areas of your
communityto be distributed to newspapers, radio, television, and
Publicity EffortsA Necessity
Holding a media conference when pedestrian issues are more likely to gain
attention, such as when schools open or close, can be a particularly effective
time to kick off a pedestrian safety program.
Newspaper articles can be used to ask the public to identify the most
hazardous areas in the community for pedestrians. Active or retired officers
can provide public information at scheduled programs in local schools and
Dispatching a brochure about pedestrian safety with all traffic citations and
written warnings is another effective method of educating the public. You may
also wish to consider including a survey about pedestrian safety as a means of
obtaining information about how much individuals know about this topic.
You can ask public transit agencies to include pedestrian safety advertisements
on the exteriors and interiors of their buses. Motor vehicle authorities should
be encouraged to include a section on pedestrian laws, rights, and obligations
on driver's tests, in driver education programs, and in violator schools.
In your educational efforts, personalize the issue by showing how a loved one
could be a pedestrian at risk. Victims' stories told from a point of view as
survivors are effective in such campaigns. Because most drivers also walk,
appeal to them from both perspectives. How do they behave toward pedestrians
when they are driving, and how do they expect a driver to behave toward them
when they are walking?
Utilities, banks, and other institutions and organizations can be
encouraged to include pedestrian safety information in monthly billings and
mailings. The state Motor Vehicle Division can be asked to include such
information with automobile registration and driver license renewal notices.
Senior citizen groups and youth groups such as the Boys Scouts can be used to
assist with mailing tasks.
Encouraging and supporting a pedestrian advocacy operation is also useful. When
preparing educational material, stress safety and not punishment. Inform
citizens about situations that can be dangerous for pedestrians, rather than
telling them about the jaywalking tickets they can receive.
A good idea is to integrate pedestrian safety with corporate health and traffic
safety programs, such as occupant protection, impaired driving, smoking
cessation, and weight control. Your message can reach many more people than it
would if you were doing it alone, and your limited funding and resources are
thus maximized for a greater impact.
Your pedestrian safety program will be much more effective if you gain the
support of government officials, community leaders, and organizations by
forming a pedestrian safety committee of individuals who have an interest in
traffic safety issues. Potential members can include representatives from
government, the Safety Council, the school system, media, automobile clubs,
youth, civic, and senior citizen organizations; traffic engineers; and hospital
or trauma center personnel. Networking with community groups is an excellent
method for obtaining citizen input as you develop and implement pedestrian
Cooperation with Engineers
Traffic engineering countermeasures can improve pedestrian safety by modifying
the physical environment. Solutions can range from painting crosswalks to
constructing pedestrian overpasses.
Engineering and enforcement interventions to improve safety can include
modification of stoplight signals to increase pedestrian
crossing time, new roadway markings to emphasize crosswalks, pedestrian
signals on median islands, oversized speed limit signs, and increased police
enforcement of the speed limit.
City planning departments should be made aware of pedestrian issues and
consider them when approving site plans. Typical urban problems, such as
traffic volume, limited resources, and crime, pose problems for pedestrians
that may not be addressed as a community grows.
Engineering factors regarding pedestrian safety should be integrated into the
community plans, including overhead cross-walks, sidewalks, marked crosswalks,
street lighting, shortened city blocks, and curb ramps for the disabled.
Strategies for High-Risk Populations
Specific pedestrian populations have been identified as being high-risk. They
are either over represented in pedestrian crashes, or they put themselves in
vulnerable positions as pedestrians. These high-risk individuals include older
adults, alcohol-impaired pedestrians, and children.
Increase enforcement in areas where there are high concentrations of older
adults. When pedestrians see officers ticketing violators, they will be more
Crossing guards can be assigned to high-concentration areas during peak times
or at designated times publicized to older adults. Placing crossing guards in
concentrated areas greatly reduces the opportunities for motorists to violate
pedestrian laws. Sometimes, volunteer crossing guards can be obtained through
organizations such as the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) or
retired police officers' groups.
Determine where older pedestrians walk to shop, eat, or exercise, particularly
in areas with high concentrations of older adults, such as retirement
communities. The Department of Social Services or senior citizen centers can
help police departments identify such locations, as well as the times when
older adults are most likely to
be in high-traffic areas. Suggestions can be made to older adults about
the safest times to be pedestrians.
Many older pedestrians are killed while crossing legally in cross-walks. A high
rate of older pedestrian are involved in right-turn-on- red and left turn
crashes. Radio and television public service announcements, which reach a wide
audience, can stress messages aimed at older adults to make them more aware of
their limitations and adjust their driving and walking behaviors accordingly.
Video or slide presentations can be made to older adult organizations,
including church groups and social clubs, who are frequently eager to have
programs of interest presented to their members.
Mature motorists programs are available from the AARP and the American
Automobile Association. These training programs cover the issue of dealing with
back or neck problems that may interfere with an older driver's ability to
check for pedestrians before backing out of a driveway or parking space and
other issues, such as slowed response time, sensory deficiencies, mental
deficiencies, and other behavioral defects.
Inform traffic planners of the engineering needs for older adults. Offer
suggestions for countermeasures that will aid older adults: bigger signs; timed
push-button crossing lights to allow a longer pedestrian crossing time; refuge
islands to provide a safe haven for those unable to cross the street during one
pedestrian crossing signal cycle; high-visibility crosswalks with overhead
lighting, flashing lights, or reflectors to allow motorists and pedestrians to
see them better; delayed green lights on all-ways stop for motorists so that
pedestrians can cross in any direction or get a head start on crossing before
vehicles make their turn; and the construction of fences and barricades to
direct pedestrian flow to intersections and discourage mid-block crossings.
Law enforcement options for handling intoxicated pedestrians are
limited now that public intoxication has been decriminalized. Education is the
best way to encourage pedestrians to look for alternate forms of transportation
when drinking. Your agency can also participate in legislative action to
criminalize walking while intoxicated.
The message to be communicated to the public is that intoxicated pedestrians
present a hazard to law-abiding motorists as well as to themselves. You can
develop a public service campaign addressing the relationship between alcohol
and pedestrian crashes, and expand public education about DWI to include the
risks of walking while intoxicated. Enlist the participation of anti-DWI groups
in a campaign to highlight the dangers to pedestrians caused by drunk drivers,
and of drunk pedestrians to themselves.
Campaigns can be developed to alert restaurant and bar industries to the
problems related to drinking and walking, especially if you involve the Alcohol
Beverage Control Board in your jurisdiction.
Educational countermeasures are most effective with this age group. Enforcement
agencies can play a significant role from an educational perspective by
developing safety materials for parents; delivering training materials to
pre-school programs and day-care centers to train child providers to teach
children about traffic safety skills; developing programs for school crossing
guards to instruct children to identify and report maintenance problems such as
broken pedestrian lights or signs that need replacing; and developing
school-based educational programs on pedestrian traffic safety.
One simple initiative is the installation of a mechanical arm that swings out
ten feet in front of a school bus so that children must walk around it to cross
the street and will be more visible to the bus driver.
Other High-Risk Populations
Other populations at risk are pedestrians on high-speed roadways and tourists.
Convincing the highway engineering departments to construct overpasses and
barricades, so that pedestrians are prevented from crossing high-speed
roadways, can help reduce collisions in these locations. Distributing
information about the dangers of crossing high-speed roadways can also be
effective when they address vehicle distance and speed as well as alcohol
Motorists need to be aware of the risks they take when they get out of disabled
cars on high-speed roadways. Pedestrians have been killed while standing in the
road wondering what to do, while working on their cars, or while attempting to
flag down assistance. It is extremely important to distribute information on
the dangers and safety precautions motorists should take when their vehicles
becomes disabled. Transportation departments should be encouraged to install
telephones along expressways so that pedestrians can call for vehicle
assistance, and to post signs instructing motorists what to do if their cars
Police can work with hotel and motel associations to develop public information
and education materials for tourists, including information on the dangers of
walking after drinking. Hotels and motels can be encouraged to distribute
pedestrian safety materials to guests as they arrive and to develop maps with
safe pedestrian routes. Pedestrian educational materials can be placed at rest
stops along interstates and can be included on, or attached to, state tourist
Construction Zone Safety
An enforcement program is the best approach to deal with the safety of
construction workers on high-speed roadways.
The Michigan State Police developed a program called Construction Zone Accident
Reduction (CZAR). It involved a pre-enforcement study period, an enforcement
period, and a post-enforcement study. Prior to any enforcement efforts, the study
indicated that cars averaged 56 mph in a posted 45 mph construc-tion zone.
Undertaking vigorous enforcement efforts, state police issued speeding tickets
during the times when construction workers were present. A post-enforcement
study indicated motorists had reduced their speed by an average of 8 mph.
In the state of Pennsylvania, a double fine is imposed for speeding in
construction zones. Signs describing the fine for each incremental speed
violation and the amount if doubled are posted to inform motorists of their
Federal funds available to highway and traffic safety initiatives in states and
local areas are known as Section 402 funds. These formula grant program funds
are intended to aid the states in conducting approved highway safety programs,
under the direction of the governor's highway safety representative. City and
county government agencies are eligible for 402 grants to fund activities in
priority program areas such as occupant protection, police traffic services,
alcohol and other drug countermeasures, emergency medical service, traffic
records, motorcycle safety, and pedestrian/bicycle safety. For information on
these programs, contact your state governor's representative for highway
Federal funds are also available to conduct research, develop new technology,
and demonstrate new strategies and technology in the field of highway traffic
safety. Referred to as Section 403 funds, they are awarded through grants,
contracts, and cooperative agree-ments with state governments, universities,
Several other sources of federal funding are available for highway safety
strategies. These are incentive grants, awarded to states meeting certain
legislative and program requirements.
Section 153 funds are awarded to states that have safety belt and motorcycle
helmet use laws and that reach certain usage levels specified by law. Section
408 and 410 funds are awarded to states that have passed legislation such as
administrative license revocation, mandatory jail for repeat alcohol offenders, and lower
legal BAC content levels, and that have programs that control access to alcohol
by use, conduct sobriety checkpoints, and have self-sustaining alcohol
programs. For more information on any of these programs, contact your
governor's representative for high-way safety.
Available pedestrian safety materials include the AAA Traffic Safety Services
Catalog, published by the American Automobile Association, Traffic Safety
Department, 1000 AAA Drive, Heathrow, Florida, 32746; and the Pedestrian
Accident Reduction Guide, distributed by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, NTS-23, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C., 20590. The Walk
Alert Program Guide is published by the National Safety Council, 444 North
Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60611-3911. The National Safety Council
also produces a Watchful Willy Preschool Pedestrian Program aimed
at preschool children to modify behavior and increase safety awareness. The AAA
also produces a booklet entitled, Older Adult Pedestrian Safety, that gives
local communities guidelines for the development of programs that meet older
adult pedestrian safety problems. The National Safety Council has a similar
brochure entitled Walk Alert: Pedestrian Safety for Older Adults.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1834 Connecticut
Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20009 has a program, entitled Walking in
Traffic Safely (WITS). This traffic education curriculum package for
young children, aged pre-school to six years old, is designed to teach them
about streets and cars. Any of these programs are yours for the asking.
Public Information and Education Programs
Public Information and Education Programs
From the smallest police departments where the chief must handle formal public
relations efforts to larger municipal police and sheriffs' departments, state
police and highway patrols that have formal public relations units within their
organizations police everywhere need to tell their story. And nowhere is
this need more relevant or important than in the field of traffic and highway
In too many instances, the department's spokesperson may have little, if any,
training or experience, either in communicating with the media or in organizing
and managing an effective public relations campaign. Often the person in charge
of public relations may be at a loss to know what is expected of him, or where
to obtain assistance.
For many years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has
urged law enforcement agencies to establish comprehensive traffic safety
programs. One way to accomplish this with a public information and education
(PI&E) program that creates a perception of risk among the
public, so they will support proactive traffic enforcement. Public information
programs are needed not only to educate but also to keep the topic of traffic
safety before the media and, thus, the public.
The public perception of the police is directly affected by the image you
portray. You can gain public understanding, support, and confidence with a
positive impression created through effective, ongoing contacts with the people
you serve. A positive climate for these relations between your officers and the
public can be fostered by successful media relations. In larger departments, a
person or a unit may be responsible for implementing a public information
program. However, even in a department where such
a unit is not possible, a good public information
program can be created. What is needed is a strong commitment by the head of
the agency to lead by example.
The task of public information consists of two important areas external
and internal information.
External public information informs the public of departmental activities,
develops good relations with the local media, performs traffic safety education
and community services, develops an effective liaison with the legislative and
judicial branches of government, and enhances overall department image.
Internal public information disseminates information on internal activities and
employee achievements to department employees.
Media relations is the most important tool at your disposal in your quest for a
good public affairs program. The majority of the public has no direct contact
with you. Their perceptions are greatly influenced by what they see, hear, and
read on television, radio, and in the newspapers. Positive publicity generates
positive opinion, and negative publicity can destroy what took years to
Too often, we fear close contact with the media, either because of an incident
in which we received unfair treatment, or as a result of a horror
story from a fellow officer. Sometimes, we react to such painful
experiences by withdrawing into a shell and refusing to cooperate or even talk
with the press. When we do this, we risk digging a hole for ourselves so deep
that it will take an unbelievable amount of work and determination to regain
public trust. Our programs suffer as a result of being unable to inform the
public adequately of what we are doing. Upon closer examination, we may find
that the negative repercussions could have been avoided if we handled the media
differently. Proactive media efforts can often identify a potential problem and
manage its probable outcome. Make media relations
a high priority in your department because, without them, effective
public relations programs are impossible.
Community programs are formal services that serve a demonstrated need within a
particular community or area. They are sponsored totally or partly by the law
enforcement agency and aimed at mitigating a particular problem, or advising a
segment of the population about a specific program. These activities can
include both crime prevention programs and traffic safety projects. Examples
are neighborhood watch, operation identification, DARE, rape and assault
prevention, child molestation prevention, bicycle safety programs, Halloween
safety, departmental appearances, tours, speaking presentations, and ride-along
Public Perception of Risk
The goal of traffic safety programs is to convince the public that violating
traffic laws leads to crashes, serious injury, or death. Too many people take
the use of vehicles for granted and think, It can't happen to me!
Effective PI&E programs address this perception of risk, to help the public
understand that the risk of dying or being seriously injured in a traffic crash
is real. They must be shown statistics that will convince them of this. A
comparison of traffic statistics to crime statistics will show that, although
people are more fearful of being the victim of a crime than being involved in a
crash, traffic crashes are violent events that are more likely to happen, even
in a high-crime area.
This same theory can be applied to enforcement strategies. Regardless of how
many violators your officers stop, the only people that will be aware of this
activity are those who are stopped or ticketed. To give the general population
the idea that, I might get caught, too, and thus secure additional
voluntary compliance with the traffic laws, you must introduce timely public
information with your enforcement efforts. For the same reason, highly visible
enforcement programs such as sobriety checkpoints, wolfpack patrols,
speed saturation, and occupant restraint and equipment checkpoints, have a
great deterrent effect as the public observes a number of police units in the
Working With the Media
Public information officers must recognize and understand the needs and
requirements of the media and help the media understand the methods, policies,
and constraints governing law enforcement. Then the best possible image of the
department can be conveyed to the public, and the media can perform its primary
mission to educate and inform.
Newsworthy events occur almost hourly, many directly or indirectly involving
law enforcement. We may secretly believe the media has no business
investigating these police matters and should stay clear until they are told
differently by us; yet the media believes its responsibility is to inform the
public about every detail of a story it considers newsworthy. If an event
provokes media interest, the fact is that the story will go out, with or
without our help. Law enforcement needs the media as an ally, but the media
does not need us to do a storytheir existence doesn't depend on us.
The print media (newspapers and magazines) are more interested in the smaller
details of a story than television and radio reporters, who must tell the story
in a few seconds. However, newspapers, too, revolve around deadlines. Being
familiar with the deadlines of the various newspapers will help you time
releases to accommodate schedules, ease the workload of reporters, and help
your relationship with them. Despite the reporter's insistence, you may be able
to take time to prepare your response to certain news events.
Radio media operate 24 hours a day, just as we do, and constantly require
information from us. With stories introduced and updated around the clock,
deadlines seldom exist. Broadcasts, which are short and concise, do not require
a lot of detail. The desired format is a quick, factual release of the main
parts of the story. Be prepared to condense a release of information into a nine to
fifteen second time period to accommodate radio's format. Half the battle of
getting your story aired is minimizing editing by the station to fit it into
their time frame. A snappy, factual, and appropriately timed release that
requires little or no editing helps guarantee that your release will be
broadcast as is, with the facts you want included. It also eases the workload
of the station staff and helps your relationship with them. Radio has the
largest audience during the morning and evening commuter rush hours, and
requests for updates and comments will increase during those times.
Radio stations frequently request a taped phone interview for broadcast. Before
you comment, ask if you are being taped. Avoid personal opinionsremember,
you are representing the department. Feel free to ask a reporter, before the
taping starts, what questions they will be asking. If you make a mistake,
realize it and correct it, either by making the correction or retaping the
interview. The radio format is especially valuable for getting out traffic and emergency
information, such as detours, evacuations, and temporary parking restrictions.
Officers can also serve as guests on talk shows and provide information about
The television media can be summed up by the old adage, A picture is
worth a thousand words. TV, like radio, must fit the story into a short,
concise package suitable for viewing. However, unlike radio, TV has fixed
deadlines, because time is required for editing and preparing raw video footage
of an incident or interviews to meet scheduled air times.
If you are being interviewed on camera, discuss the interview outline with the
reporter until you feel comfortable about it. If you know in advance, do some
research on the topic. It is possible to stop the cameras if you make a mistake
and tape that portion of the interview over.
As TV news crews have become more mobile, live television interviews at the
scene of an event are commonplace. Your officers in the field must be trained
to respond to these live requests.
Television, because it combines news with the impact of visual images,
can enhance your PI&E efforts. Use TV whenever it can help your efforts.
National News Media
Radio and TV network reporters and national wire services will descend on you
whenever you have news of more than local interesta riot, a public
demonstration, or even a severe storm. You must be prepared for this to
Good coordination is the key to dealing with the national media. Designate one
spokesperson or public information officer to do all the interviews if
possible. This avoids releasing conflicting information or making it look as
though you are hiding something. In disaster situations, designate a media
staging area where they can work and you can interface with them. Don't
overlook your local media simply because the national people are on the scene.
When the national attention goes away, you must face the local media 365 days a
Public Service Announcements
Radio and TV stations broadcast public service announcements (PSAs). In
addition, many newspapers will print free public service ads as a community
If you wish to use PSAs, remember that they are a form of advertising. Develop
them as an advertising agency would develop an advertisement or commercial.
They should have a theme, present a concise and easily understood message, and
be factual and entertaining. Sometimes, the use of a celebrity or radio or TV
professional as the voice over, or talking head, will help to get
your message across. If you produce your own PSAs, be sure they are of
broadcast or print quality, or you can be assured that they will not be used.
Frequently, a local advertising agency will assist
you, free of charge, as their own contribution to the public well-being.
Managing The Media
Learn, either by attending journalism or police-media courses or from a
friendly media representative, how to write a good news releaseone which
contains the who, what, why, when, where, and how in the first
paragraph and adds details of diminishing importance in subsequent paragraphs,
so it can be easily edited to fit the space available.
Get to know the names, addresses, phone and pager numbers of the movers and
shakers in your local media. Be accessible to them. If you send news releases
out, do not address them generically to the news desk, but send them to someone
you know. Top department officials should also develop friendly relationships
with managing editors, publishers, and those who set editorial policy. Have a
formal policy on handling the media, and consider
issuing press cards to bona-fide media representatives, to allow them
the closest possible access to a scene without disrupting operations or
destroying evidence. Regular meetings every few months between the department
management and media representa-tives provide both parties an opportunity to
break bread together and iron out any differences.
How to Obtain Further Information
NHTSA has a booklet entitled, Law Enforcement Public Information, as well as
examples of video and audio-taped PSAs, that is free for the asking. You can
obtain copies by contacting
Police Traffic Services Division (NTS-41) National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration 400 7th St., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20590
Uniformity, Reciprocity, and Federal Programs
Uniformity and Reciprocity of Federal Programs
Currently, more than 170 million licensed drivers are driving about 188 million
vehicles over two trillion miles a year on our streets and highways. Our
efforts in highway safety have reduced the death rate to less than two deaths
per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. In the 1930s, the mileage death
rate was approximately 15.
The terrible loss of life on our streets and highways called for action, and a
group of visionaries in the 1920s and 1930s saw the need for highway safety
programs. Among these was the need for uniformity of traffic laws, and
reciprocal agreements between and among the states to improve the safety,
mobility, and efficiency of our roadway system.
The History of Reciprocity
The conceptual framework of reciprocity and uniformity was formalized in 1924,
when Secretary of Commerce and later U.S. President Herbert Hoover convened a
group of people to develop a national, rather than federal, set of proposed
laws. The purpose was to achieve uniformity from state to state and to enhance
both intrastate and interstate motor vehicle travel. Reasonable uniform-ity of
state motor vehicle laws would then establish a framework for interstate
reciprocity and the free flow of goods and people.
The Uniform Vehicle Code
Today, there is the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances
(NCUTLO) which has maintained the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) since 1926, when
the first edition was published. The first edition was what we now know as the
part of the UVC called the Rules of the Road.
Over the years, other chapters were added to the UVC. Everything was
combined in a single edition of the UVC shortly after World War II.
The NCUTLO is still active today in producing what is generally accepted as a
national guideline for uniform state traffic laws and local ordinances. The
code has been revised approximately every four years since 1926.
Interstate Compacts and Institutions
Over the past six or seven decades many individuals, organiza-tions, and
institutions have dedicated intellect, time, and funding to providing a safer,
more efficient highway transportation system.
Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson established national
committees which became known as the Presidents Committees for Traffic
Highway Safety. Advisory groups were formed to establish action programs
ranging from accident records, laws and ordinances, driver licensing, police
traffic services, engineering, and public support and information, to research
and development. These programs, and the many dedicated people who worked on
them, soon recognized the need for coordination, balance, and comprehensive
concepts, which in later years became known as the systems
The U.S. Constitution provides that, before the various states can enter into a
compact, they must have the consent of the Congress. Representative Beamer saw
the need for consent ahead of time to encourage state compacts in the traffic
safety field. In 1958, the so-called Beamer Resolution passed
Congress, and gave permission for states to pursue such compacts. This
legislation resulted in the National Driver License Compact, the Non-Resident
Violator Compact, and the Motor Vehicle Safety Equipment Compact.
A number of institutions were established such as the Automotive Safety
Foundation, the Traffic Institute at Northwestern University, the American
Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Traffic Division of the
International Association of Chiefs of Police (later to become the Highway
Safety Advisory Committee to the Institute for Traffic Engineering, the National Safety
Council, the American Association of State Highway Transporta-tion Officials
(formerly known as AASHO, now AASHTO), the Bureau of Public Roads of the
Department of Commerce (now the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S.
Department of Transportation), the Traffic Court Program of the American Bar
Association, the Safety Education Commission of the National Education
Association, and the American Automobile Association Motor Clubs.
The Federal Aid Highway Act
In 1956, the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed by Congress and signed by
President Eisenhower. This created the system of interstate and national
defense highways, and the Federal Highway Trust Fund. It also called for a
study of the federal role in highway safety. A document entitled The
Federal Role in Highway Safety was published several years later and
became one of the studies that influenced the landmark legislation in 1966
(Senate Resolution 3005, to provide for a national safety program for the
establishment of safety standards for motor vehicles and interstate commerce,
and Senate Resolution 3052) to provide for a coordinated national highway
safety program known as the Highway Safety Act of 1966. This act called for the
establishment of national standards. Eventually there were 18 program standards
which, in the view of some, have been diluted in recent years.
The National Highway Safety Bureau (later changed to the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the Federal Highway Administration
were established. Note the distinction of one being national and
the other federal.
The 1966 legislation was an expansion of the concepts of the 1956 Federal Aid
Highway Act. The Highway Safety Act called for statewide planning, focus of
responsibilities through the governor of each state, local planning and
participation, and funding mechanisms.
Relationship to Highway Safety Program Standards
Highway Safety Program Standard No. 6 calls for the elimination of all major
variations in traffic codes, laws and ordinances among the political
subdivisions of a state, in order to increase the compatibility of these
ordinances with a unified overall state policy on traffic safety codes and
laws, and to further the adoption of appropriate aspects of the Rules of the
Road section of the UVC among the states.
The standards section calls for each state to develop and implement a program
to achieve uniformity in traffic codes and laws throughout the state. The
program was to provide a plan to achieve uniform rules of the road in all of
its jurisdictions, and a plan to make the state's unified rules of the road
consistent with similar unified plans of other states. Additionally, it calls
for continuing comparisons of all state and local laws, statutes, and
ordinances with comparable versions of the Rules of the Road section of the
For many years, several states did, in fact, make comparative studies with the
UVC, but very few, if any, go through this process today. For over 60 years,
the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances has encouraged
states to use the UVC to achieve and maintain reasonable and realistic uniform
traffic laws and ordinances. For without such uniformity, how can
reciprocity between and among the states be recognized and practiced?
The Future of Reciprocity and Uniformity
Advances in technology as applied to the highway environment and to the motor
vehicle include, but are not limited to safety restraints, anti-lock brakes,
passenger containment protection, and steel belted tires. As we review these
advances, together with program advances addressing uniform laws, alcohol/drug
abuse, driver licensing, police traffic supervision, and some behavioral
changes, we better understand our achievements in the area of highway safety.
We must not, however, forget that the foundation of all these advances are the
federal, state, and local laws, which enable and authorize the creation,
enactment and implementation of all of these factors in a comprehensive,
uniform, systematic way. As a result, the states can and do enact reciprocal
agreements between and among themselves so that each citizen/motorist can drive
intrastate and interstate with the confidence of being in compliance with the
Federal Agencies and Grants
The following is a summary of the various federal agencies that are active in
highway safety and traffic enforcement, along with their roles and
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established by
the Highway Safety Act of 1970, as the successor to the National Highway Safety
Bureau, to carry out safety programs under the National Traffic and Motor
Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and the Highway Safety Act of 1966. It also
administers consumer programs established by the Motor Vehicle Information and
Cost Savings Act, enacted in 1972.
NHTSA is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses
resulting from motor vehicle crashes. This is accomplished by setting and
enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and items of motor
vehicle equipment, and by funding grants to state and local governments for
conducting effective local highway safety programs.
NHTSA also investigates safety defects in motor vehicles, sets and enforces
fuel economy standards, helps states and local communities reduce the threat
of drunk drivers, promotes the use of safety belts, child safety seats and air
bags, investigates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces vehicle anti-theft
regulations, and provides consumer information on motor vehicle safety topics.
The State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program was enacted by the Highway
Safety Act of 1966 as Section 402 of Title 23, United States Code. Grant funds
are provided to the states, the Indian nations, and U.S. territories each year
according to a statutory formula based on population and road mileage. The
grants support state planning to identify and quantify highway safety problems,
provide start-up or seed money for new programs, and give new
direction to existing safety programs.
These funds are intended to catalyze innovative programs at the state and local
level and leverage commitments of state, local, and private resources. The
Section 402 grant process has been successful in directing resources to
national and state priority safety programs.
The Research and Demonstration Grants Program was enacted by the Highway Safety
Act of 1966. Grant funds are provided to conduct research and demonstration
projects on developing the most efficient and effective means of bringing about
Section 408: The Alcohol Traffic Safety Program Act (Public Law 97-364),
enacted in 1982, created Section 408 of the Highway Safety Act. It authorized
$125 million in incentive grant funds to encourage state and local agencies to
deal more aggressively with the impaired driving problem. These grants assist
and provide recognition to states that establish laws and programs to deter
drunk and drugged driving, such as certain and swift arrest, license
suspension, and rehabilitation of drunk driving offenders.
Section 408 is administered by NHTSA. Grants are awarded to the states through
their designated Highway Safety Offices.
Section 410: This is a section in Title 23 of the United States Code that
establishes a federal alcohol incentive grant program designed
to encourage states to enact strong, effective anti-drunk driving
legislation and improve the enforcement of these laws. Section 410 also
promotes the development and implementation of innovative programs to combat
impaired driving. The program is administered by the NHTSA. Grants are awarded
to the states through their designated Highway Safety Offices.
Section 153: Section 153 is a federal incentive grant program enacted by the
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) as Section 153
of Title 23, United States Code. It promotes the passage of state safety belt
and motorcycle helmet use laws and compliance with those laws. Section 153
grants are administered by NHTSA. The grants are awarded to the states through
their designated Highway Safety Offices.
The Federal Highway Administration
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was established as a component of the
Department of Transportation in 1967 as a result of the Department of
Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. app. 1651 note). The agency administers the
highway transportation programs of the DOT in accordance with the provisions of
section 6(a) of the act and other pertinent legislation.
The FHWA carries out a broad range of highway transportation activities
including the coordination of the highway mode with other modes of
transportation and ensuring that the nation's highway transportation system is
safe, economical, and efficient with respect to the highway's impact on the
environment and social and economic conditions.
Federal-Aid Highway Program
The FHWA administers the federal-aid highway program of financial assistance to
the states for highway construction and improvements. This program provides for
construction and preser-vation of the approximately 42,500-mile national system
of interstate and defense highways and the improvement of approximately
800,000 miles of other federal-aid primary, secondary, and urban roads and
streets. The agency also administers the Highway Bridge Replacement and
Rehabilitation Program to assist in the inspection, analysis, and
rehabilitation or replacement of bridges both on and off the federal-aid
The FHWA is responsible for carrying out several highway safety programs. These
safety programs provide funding for projects which remove, relocate, or shield
roadside obstacles; identify and correct hazardous locations; eliminate or
reduce hazards at railroad crossings; and improve signing, pavement markings,
The agency promulgates and administers highway-related safety guidelines
providing for the identification and surveillance of accident locations;
highway design, construction, and maintenance; traffic engineering services;
and highway-related aspects of pedestrian safety.
Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS)
Under the authority of the motor carrier safety provisions of Title 49 of the
U.S. Code, the FHWA, through the Office of Motor Carrier Safety, exercises
federal regulatory jurisdiction over the safety performance of all commercial
motor carriers (trucks and buses) engaged in interstate and foreign commerce.
The agency's motor carrier safety investigators conduct safety reviews at the
carriers' facilities and at roadside to determine the safety perfor-mance of
the carriers' operations. Compliance reviews are conducted to follow up on
problem areas identified during the safety reviews and at times result in
prosecution or other sanctions against violators of the federal motor carrier
safety regulations or the hazardous materials transportation regulations.
The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) provides grant funding from
the federal government to the states to enforce uniform federal and state
safety and hazardous materials regulations and rules applicable to commercial
motor vehicles and their drivers. To qualify for participation, a state must
adopt and enforce the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)
or similar state rules compatible with the FMCSRs and the Hazardous
Materials Transportation Regulations.
Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Program
All drivers of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or
more (what the vehicle and cargo would weigh fully loaded) and those of any
size transporting hazardous materials that are required to be placarded must
possess a CDL. For buses, the law applies to drivers of vehicles designed to
carry 16 or more people.
Research and Special Programs Administration
The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) manages a number of
diverse and intermodal programs that include hazardous materials transportation
safety, pipeline safety, transportation safety training, emergency
transportation involving national defense and resources, aviation data
collection and gathering statistics, and research and development.
The Office of Hazardous Materials Transportation is responsible for hazardous
materials transportation safety regulation and enforcement. It develops and
issues safety standards addressing every aspect of hazardous materials
transportation for all types of transportation except marine bulk packaging.
Each of the DOT modal administrations inspects and enforces the hazardous
materials regulations applicable to their mode.
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), a bureau of the U.S.
Department of the Treasury, is an interagency training facility for the
personnel from approximately 70 federal law enforcement organizations.
Facilities are available for extensive physical training
and driver training complexes, indoor and
outdoor firearms ranges, and numerous practical exercise areas.
Approximately 20 federal law enforcement agencies maintain on-site training
staffs. FLETC's interagency training mission for the federal participating
organizations is threefold: to provide basic training; to provide advanced and
specialized programs geared to a common need; and to support organizations
conducting their own advanced and specialized training.
The National Center for State and Local Enforcement Training was established at
the FLETC in 1982. The National Center is mandated to provide training for
personnel from state and local law enforcement agencies. The center's primary
goal is to provide state and local law enforcement agencies with training or
technical assistance in subject matter areas generally unavailable elsewhere.
National Center policies focus not only on creating needed training, but also
on encouraging networking and operational interaction after training. Such
interaction among federal state, and local agencies is viewed as critical.
NHSTA Regional Offices
- Regional Administrator Regional Administrator NHTSA - Region I NHTSA - Region
VI Transportation System Center 819 Taylor Street, Room 8A38 Kendall Square
Code 903 Fort Worth, TX 76102-6177 Cambridge, MA 02142 (817) 334-3653 (617)
- Regional Administrator NHTSA - Region VII NHTSA - Region II P.O. Box 412515 222
Mamaroneck Avenue Kansas City, MO 64141 Room 204 (816) 822-7233 White Plains,
NY 10605 (914) 682-6162 Regional Administrator
- Regional Administrator 555 Zang Street, 4th Floor NHTSA - Region III Denver, CO
80228 BWI Commerce Park (303) 969-6917 7526 Connelley Drive, Suite L Hanover,
MD 21076-1699 Regional Administrator (410) 768-7111 NHTSA - Region IX
- Regional Administrator San Francisco, CA 94105 NHTSA - Region IV (415) 744-3089
1720 Peachtree Road, N.W. Suite 1048 Regional Administrator Atlanta, GA 30309
NHTSA - Region X (404) 347-4537 3140 Jackson Federal Building
- Regional Administrator Seattle, WA 98174 NHTSA - Region V (206) 220-7640 18209
Dixie Highway, Suite A Homewood, IL 60430 (708) 206-3300
- RegionalAdministrator NHTSA - Region VIII 211 Main Street, Suite 1000
915 Second Avenue
FHWA Regional Offices
- Regional Administrator Regional Administrator FHWA - Region I FHWA - Region VII
Leo W. O'Brien Federal Building 6301 Rockhill Road Clinton Avenue & North
Pearl Street P.O. Box 419715 Room 719 Kansas City, MO 64131-6715 Albany, NY
12207 (816) 926-7490 (518) 472-6476
- Regional Administrator FHWA - Region VIII FHWA - Region III 555 Zang Street
Federal Highway Administration Room 400 10 South Howard Street, Suite 4000
Lakewood, CO 80228 Baltimore, MD 21201 (303) 969-6722 (410) 962-0093
- Regional Administrator FHWA - Region IX FHWA - Region IV 211 Main Street 1720
Peachtree Road, N.W., Suite 200 Room 1100 Atlanta, GA 30367 San Francisco, CA
94105 (404) 347-4078 (415) 744-2639
- Regional Administrator Regional Administrator FHWA - Region V FHWA - Region X
18209 Dixie Highway KOIN Center, Suite 600 Homewood, IL 60430-2294 222 S. W.
Columbia Street (708) 206-3186 Portland, OR 97201
- Regional Administrator FHWA - Region VI 819 Taylor Street, Rm. 8A00 P.O. Box
902003 Fort Worth, TX 76102 (817) 334-4393
- Regional Administrator (503) 326-2064
- National Center for State and Federal Law Enforcement Training National Center
for State and Local Law Enforcement Training Federal Law Enforcement Training
Center Glynco, GA 31524
Legal Issues U.S. Constitution and Traffic Law: Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court
The following is a synopsis of the appellate court decisions pertaining
to traffic law enforcement.
A driver was injured in collision. The investigating officer
made an arrest at the hospital and persuaded a doctor to draw blood sample over
the protest and without consent of the driver. At the time, California had no
im-plied consent or other law that would muddy the waters. The Court held that
the officer had probable cause and arrest was legal under California law. Thus,
the search and seizure of blood sample was constitutional incident to the
arrest. The court held that there was no violation of the privilege against
self-incrimination as that constitutional right did not apply to physical
evidence. The privilege covers testimonial-type evidence.
There was no violation of due process of law since the blood sample was taken
by qualified personnel under proper medical procedures in a hospital
environment. The driver's right to counsel was not violated even though his counsel had
advised the driver that he did not have to submit to a chemical test. Schmerber
v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966).
Admissibility of Refusal of Chemical Test:
Where a driver refused a chemical
test, this refusal could be admitted into evidence at the trial, and it does
not violate his constitutional rights. South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553
(1983). Saving Breath Sample for Defendant The U.S. Constitution does not require the
prosecution to preserve a breath sample so that a defendant can have it
analyzed at a later time. California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479 (1984).
Hit and Run
Requiring a driver involved in an accident to stop and return to the scene and
identify himself does not violate his constitutional rights. California v.
Byers, 402 U.S. 424 (1971).
The government may create parking districts and prohibit nonresidents
from parking on public streets in such areas. It does not violate equal
protection of the law, since classifying parkers into residents and
nonresidents was a reasonable classification. County Board v. Richards, 434
U.S. 5 (1977).
An officer cannot pull a single driver from the stream of traffic without at
least an articulable suspicion of wrong doing. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648
As long as law enforcement officers conduct a nondiscretionary roadblock, it
does not violate the Fourth Amendment. How many impaired drivers are arrested
is not relevant. Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 110 S. Ct. 2481 (1990).
The Court held that a driver's license is an important interest and
cannot be taken away or denied without affording the person due process of law.
The Court avoided calling it a right or a privilege.
Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971).
However, later decisions have made some exceptions to the Bell case. In Dixon
v. Love, 431 U.S. 105 (1977) it was held that no opportunity for a hearing was
required under a point system. In Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1 (1979), under
an implied consent law the license could be revoked first and the hearing could
come later. In Illinois v. Batchelder, 463 U.S. 1112 (1983), an officer's
affidavit for refusal under the implied consent law does not have to recite the
reasonable grounds the officer had that the driver was DWI.
Where a DWI driver is transported to the police station and held, he is in
custody for purposes of Miranda. Questioning in custody requires Miranda
warnings in misdemeanor cases. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984).