Police get tough on aggressive driving

June 9th, 2015 7:36 pm

First Posted: 7/11/2014

FORTY FORT — Lead-footed drivers beware, some area police departments are stepping up traffic enforcement through the end of next month as part of a state funded program.

The Forty Fort Borough Police Department began increasing their presence along Wyoming Avenue Friday.

The Times Leader took a ride with Mayor Andy Tuzinski to follow Officers Brian Casella and Matthew Smith as part of the Aggressive Driving Coordinated Enforcement Day.

The day was part of a wave of increased enforcement targeting dangerous and aggressive driving on select state roads.

As part of the enforcement program, the state Department of Transportation provides a grant to participating departments to cover the cost of an additional officer’s shifts, which consist solely of traffic enforcement.

Forty Fort police Chief Daniel Hunsinger said his department will spend $1,400 during the enforcement wave, which ends Aug. 31, to be refunded by the PennDOT grants. Eleven other Luzerne County police departments — as well as the state police — are participating.

The morning traffic officer wrote eight tickets, and between 4 and 5 p.m. Casella and Smith performed three traffic stops.

Tuzinski said someone suggested to him that the borough could make a fortune writing tickets on Route 11. But the mayor disputes such claims.

“We’re lucky we get these grants,” Tuzinski said. “The reality is the town only gets twelve dollars and fifty cents per ticket.”

The officers said, and the mayor agreed, that they could probably do an even more effective job enforcing traffic if they were allowed to use radar to catch speeding motorists. However, Pennsylvania law prohibits the use of radar devices by municipal departments.

Forty Fort police had set up a device along Wyoming Avenue which uses a laser beam to detect speed, but they said using the device is time consuming and expensive.

“I don’t know how much a radar gun costs, but that thing’s about $5,000,” Casella said.

Casella said the earlier part of his Friday afternoon enforcement shift had been slow, which he said aggravated him. However, it seems to suggest that either the heightened police presence, or perhaps the bright 4-foot-by-4-foot orange signs warning of increased enforcement are having a positive effect.

John Morgan, law enforcement liaison from Pennsylvania’s North-Central Highway Safety Network, said past enforcement waves have proved highly effective in curbing aggressive driving.

“I know we notice a difference between the beginning of an enforcement wave and the the end,” Morgan said.

Over the course of the wave, he said, increased police visibility and word of mouth from cited drivers become a deterrent to other motorists.

Morgan said three waves are conducted in a typical year. The first wave of 2014 occurred in March and April, the current wave is the second, and the dates for the the third are yet to be determined.

During the ride-along, a call came over the radio, dispatching medics to assist a 5-year-old hit by a car.

“That kind of underscores why these guys are out here,” Tuzinski said.