CITY OF AURORA, COLORADO
Tackling Aggressive Drivers
Many of Americaís cities face a multitude of issues that involve the quality of life of their citizens. Problems related to growth, development, congestion, and the delivery of public safety services are just a few of the many complex issues our cities face today. The steady growth being experienced in Aurora, Colorado is in no small part responsible for an exponential increase in motor vehicle traffic. This and many other quality of life issues in Aurora are being addressed with some very creative and innovative programs.
Not only did the increase in Auroraís population result in added traffic congestion, but Aurora Police officials as well as the cityís elected officials noticed a tremendous increase in the number of citizen complaints in recent years that were directly related to traffic problems - and in particular, to complaints about aggressive driving behavior.
In what seems to have become a national trend, and perhaps even a "sign of the times," police have observed not only a rather cavalier attitude in some drivers, but what may be best described as a careless disregard by some drivers of the rights and safety of other motorists. In what has come to be known in the news media as "road rage," aggressive driving behaviors are directly responsible for the seriousness of many traffic accidents, all too many of which result in fatalities. In the words of Aurora Police Uniform Division Chief Terry Jones, "What it boils down to is a minority of drivers that just donít care about anyone but themselves." In fact, the historical record shows that more people lose their lives in Aurora in vehicle accidents than by murder.
Special Traffic Enforcement Campaign
In order to effectively address the problem of aggressive driving behavior, a campaign was decided upon which would not only efficiently utilize the available resources of the Aurora Police Department, but elicit public cooperation and support as well. As a result, the Special Traffic Enforcement Campaign came to fruition, and involves a two-pronged approach emphasizing enforcement and education, both of which are aimed at modifying driver behavior.
Preparation for the enforcement aspect of the campaign involved research and analysis of locations in Aurora which received the most citizen complaints, and the locations where the most traffic accidents occurred. The research resulted in the identification of the top 10 citizen complaint locations and the top 25 accident locations, all of which were studied for the feasibility of directed enforcement activities.
In addition, driver behaviors, or more specifically certain aggressive driving behaviors, were identified as leading causal factors in traffic accidents. Erratic and dangerous driving practices such as speeding in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, following too closely or "tailgating," frequent lane changes without signaling, and disregarding traffic controls and regulations are just a few of those behaviors that were identified. Educating the public about aggressive driving behavior as well as the planned enforcement efforts became the focal points to be emphasized during the media campaign.
The educational aspect of the campaign involved a multi-faceted approach in both print and electronic media, and educational efforts were undertaken that addressed the goals of the campaign both inside the Aurora Police Department and the City of Aurora as well. Uniformed officers of the Patrol Bureau were given briefings pertaining to the importance of their continuing attention to traffic-related matters during their patrol activities. Additionally, employees of the City of Aurora were informed as to the importance of the traffic campaignís public safety goals through employee newsletters as well as Auroraís award winning cable television station, KACT-TV, Channel 8. The entire media effort involved thorough explanations emphasizing the importance of the campaign, as well as the personal responsibility of each citizen to drive safely and respect the rights of other motorists.
One of the unique aspects of the campaign was demonstrated by the fact that the public was notified by the media in advance of the locations of targeted traffic enforcement activities. This approach was again proof positive of the behavior modification goal of the campaign. It also totally defused any public perception of the "cops hiding in the bushes to write tickets" criticism - often expressed particularly by many drivers while holding a traffic citation in hand.
To say the least, it is difficult to quantify the success of any program designed to modify human behavior, but there are certain statistics which attest to the success of various elements of the Special Traffic Enforcement Campaign. Demonstrating the department-wide approach to the education and enforcement aspects of the traffic campaign, the total number of traffic tickets issued in the city by the end of July 1998 increased by over 40 percent. Interestingly, when injury accidents were also tracked through the end of July of 1998 and compared to the same period of time during 1997, there were 121 fewer injury accidents in Aurora - a decrease of 8.8 percent.
Anecdotal evidence regarding the success of and public support for the campaign has presented itself as well. One gentleman who was stopped during a targeted enforcement operation was issued a summons for running a red light. While sitting in his car awaiting his ticket and stewing in anger, he looked at the officer and said, "Iím not mad at you, but I canít believed that Iím getting a ticket for the same thing and at the same location that Iíve been calling the police department and complaining about!!"
The Aurora Police Department will continue the Special Traffic Enforcement Campaign throughout the year, and will rely on other innovative ideas as well. The police department will continue the use of "speed display trailers," which are placed in particular areas of the city to remind drivers of their speed while driving through neighborhoods, and particularly in the areas of schools. In addition, "safety sensitive zones" are being designated, again near many schools, which will dramatically increase the mandatory fines for certain traffic violations in those areas.
Public education efforts will continue as well, emphasizing the importance of every driverís personal responsibility to operate safely and courteously while driving in the City of Aurora. A theme often used during the traffic campaign is expressed by the hope that motorists should not be worried about when they get where they are going, but rather that they get there safely.
Contact: Mark R. Hellenschmidt, Public Information Officer, Aurora Police Department, 303/739-6022.
Aurora Public Works Department
Memorials to Drunk Driving Victims
The Aurora Public Works Department has instituted a "Donít Drink and Drive" signing program in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Transportation. Relatives and friends of Aurora victims killed by drunken drivers can request the city to erect a sign at the crash sites. The signs, posted for two years, are sobering reminders not to drink and drive, as well as a memorial to the victims.
Doubling Speeding Fines in Selected Areas
The Aurora Public Works Department also is instituting — during the fall of 1998 - "Safety Sensitive Zones" where speeding fines are doubled. Using high-visibility, florescent yellow-green sheeting, the signs will be posted at 170 school crossings in Aurora to reduce the incidence of speeding and accidents.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.