ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Angel Streeter Original Source: http://bit.ly/1s8IdET
State Road A1A’s popularity among cyclists has long created conflicts between them and motorists along this narrow, scenic highway. Drivers complain about bike packs taking up the road. Cyclists criticize drivers who pass by them too closely, barely sharing the road. Law enforcement is determined to put both groups in line. On Tuesday, police departments from Pompano Beach to Manalapan began a weeklong campaign to make sure both groups are obeying the rules of the road.
They will be handing out warnings and tickets to cyclists who fail to stop at red lights and stop signs and impede the flow of traffic. At the same time, drivers will be stopped if they’re not following the so-called 3-feet law, which requires them to give 3 feet of clearance when passing cyclists.
“It has been a big challenge for law enforcement to enforce bike safety on A1A,” said Tara Kirschner, spokeswoman for South Florida Safe Roads Task Force, the group behind the safety campaign. “You have some cyclists who don’t know the same traffic rules apply to them ... [Drivers] are not respecting cyclists on the road. It’s really educating everybody to share the road.”
The enforcement effort will be done on days when large cycling groups gravitate toward A1A — Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Chris Hoch, executive director of the zMotion Foundation, said his group supports the effort to make roads safer for both cyclists and drivers.
For the last four years, zMotion, a South Florida cycling group, has been promoting its Ride Right Drive Right campaign that encourages cyclists and motorists to follow the rules of the road. On A1A, the group has put up road signs reminding cyclists not to ride more than two abreast and motorists to give three feet of clearance when passing cyclists.
Still, many of zMotion’s members were skeptical of the enforcement campaign by police departments.
“Cyclists fear that they’re just going to go after us,” Hoch said. “We’re hoping we don’t get phone calls about them being harassed. I hope it’s not one-sided ... If they crack down on vehicles too, cyclists will see that.”
While police assured him cyclists weren’t going to be targeted, Hoch said there are some cyclists who do need to be reigned in. Those who ride in large packs and take over roads, run red lights and bike dangerously around vehicles don’t help cyclists’ image.
“That’s who I hope they’re cracking down on,” he said.
Those characters seem to be few and far between these days, said John Scanlon, who lives on A1A in Boca Raton and has been critical in the past of cyclists’ aggressive behavior on the road.
In recent years, cycling groups have stepped up and encouraged their members to behave better, and drivers seem to be following suit, Scanlon said.
“Everybody took action on both sides,” he said. “You don’t see those huge packs as much. They do their rides in small groups. Whenever motorists see a bike, they move way over to give bikes a lot of room.”
But Steve Topor, who bikes regularly on A1A, said it’s dangerous riding on the road in Deerfield Beach and Hillsboro Beach.
“I have had many close calls with automobiles being inpatient to pass,” said the Hillsboro Beach resident. “On weekends, the large groups of cyclists tend to hog the road and get belligerent if someone beeps the horn for them to pull over and yield space to passing cars.”
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Jeff Burlew Original Source: http://on.tdo.com/1mICwMQ
The blowback came quickly — election-year fast — after my article ran last Sunday about a state proposal to tie Florida Highway Patrol trooper evaluations and bonuses to the number of traffic tickets they write.
“Absolutely outrageous and wrong,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a written statement issued Friday. “All state worker bonuses should be based on better — not worse — outcomes for the people of Florida who pay the taxes to fund state government. Floridians paying more in tickets is not a better outcome. Period. If this idea comes across my desk, I will reject it.”
The Florida Police Benevolent Association and the state reached impasse earlier this year in collective-bargaining talks over pay and other issues, including performance evaluations.
One big concern for the PBA was a proposal by the state to link state-trooper evaluations to “citizen contacts,” which included writing citations and warnings and making physical arrests. The PBA said the proposal could be seen as a quota system.
By Thursday, the state had withdrawn the proposal and submitted a new one, saying “enforcement activity is excluded” from state-trooper performance measures.
Julie Jones, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety, issued her own statement Thursday, saying FHP’s proposed performance standards “in no way create a quota for troopers and bonuses would never be provided based on enforcement actions such as a citation, warning or equipment inspection.”
She added the standards do include “those things that troopers do each and every day such as assisting motorists with disabled vehicles, providing directions for lost travelers and helping stranded motorists who may have run out of gas.”
Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida PBA, said the change “alleviates the concern of our association,” which is representing 1,600 state troopers, 1,100 state-agency law-enforcement officers and 250 special agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in contract talks.
“As far as what we call hard-number contacts, they seem to be off the table in this latest offer,” he said. “We are very appreciative of this offer, and we thank them for working with us.”
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Nick DiUlio Original Source: http://bit.ly/1jerw6Q
Most U.S. drivers know that being charged with a traffic moving violation, like speeding, will likely result in your car insurance premium going up. What may prove shocking, however, is just how significant that rate increase can be.
A recent study, commissioned by insuranceQuotes.com, found that car insurance premiums can climb by as much 93 percent after a single moving violation. The study compared the average national premium increase for one moving violation in seven categories:
Driving in a carpool lane.
Failure to stop.
Failure to yield to pedestrians.
The study found that the increases varied significantly between different types of violations. For instance, one conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) will result in a national average premium increase of 93 percent; however, driving in a carpool lane without the required number of occupants in the car results in an 18 percent average premium spike.
According to Mike Barry, spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, the study illuminates the ways in which insurers use various driving infractions as a way to assess different levels of risk for individual drivers.
Dangerous activities, such as driving under the influence and reckless driving, frequently result in premium increases above 50 percent, while other activities such as failure to yield to pedestrians result in increases of 15 percent or less.
"Insurers base their rates on experience, so the violations that cause premiums to jump the most are the ones that, over the years, insurers have found are strong indicators that the driver is likely to have an accident in the future," Barry says.
Premium increases by traffic moving violation
These are the average national premium increases for seven traffic moving violations from greatest to least:
1. DUI — 93 percent.
2. Reckless driving — 82 percent.
3. Careless driving — 27 percent.
4. Speeding 1 to 15 mph over the limit — 21 percent.
Speeding 16 to 30 mph over the limit - 28 percent.
Speeding 31+ mph over the limit - 30 percent.
5. Failure to stop — 19 percent.
6. Failure to yield to pedestrians — 19 percent.
7. Driving in a carpool lane — 18 percent.
Tully Lehman, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, says it makes sense that certain traffic moving violations will result in greater premium increases than others.
For instance, speeding 5 mph over the posted limit is very different from racing a friend at 100 mph, which could result in a reckless driving charge. And insurers have very specific algorithms (prior insurance data and equations used to predict future driving behavior) that show certain types of moving violations are more indicative of future risk.
"The likelihood of (a driver) being in an at-fault accident is higher after a reckless driving violation compared to someone who gets pulled over for driving in a carpool lane," says Dan Weedin, a Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant.
This sentiment was echoed by the Kentucky Department of Insurance.
“Companies assess different weights to various violation types,” says Ronda Sloan, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Insurance. “This would result in higher premium increases for some types with smaller increases for others. Companies may tier violations based on the likelihood that a certain behavior causes, or is the predictor, of an accident.”
The difference between reckless and careless driving
While every state has its own specific definition, Barry says reckless driving is typically considered a blatant disregard of traffic laws and driving safety that intentionally makes things riskier for others on the road. Careless driving, however, is usually defined as an unintentional act that causes a risk to others
For instance, reckless driving includes things like drag racing and road rage, while careless driving could include offenses such as switching lanes without signaling, following another car too closely, or driving while texting or talking on a cellphone.
"Reckless driving is a far more serious offense than careless driving,” Barry says. This view is reflected in the study's numbers; one reckless driving offense can increase your premium by 81 percent, which is three times more than a careless driving charge (27 percent).
Car insurance forgiveness and driving classes
Some car insurers are more forgiving of minor traffic tickets, like speeding or driving in the carpool lane, than others. According to Jeff Sibel, a spokesman for Progressive, if you have a previously clean record and haven't filed any insurance claims, a single moving violation for minor offenses like failure to stop or driving in the carpool lane may not result in higher premiums.
Also, many states offer driving classes to help drivers remove one or two moving violations from their records. For instance, Ohio drivers can take up to three driving classes over the course of a lifetime. After successfully completing the course, drivers are awarded a two-point credit that improves their driving records. So if you get a speeding ticket that added two points to your driving record, completing an approved driving class would wipe away those points.
Shopping for a new car insurance policy
Shopping for a new car insurance policy after receiving a traffic moving violation is usually a good idea.
"Some insurers penalize mistakes less harshly than others, so you may be able to find a new policy that's cheaper than the one you have, even with a moving violation on your record," Barry says. "Just be sure to honestly reveal your driving record on the application. Withholding pertinent information like a recent major traffic ticket can result in the insurer denying a claim. Then you're really paying for your mistakes."
Data source: Quadrant Information Services
Study methodology: The study assessed data from all garageable ZIP codes in every U.S. state and 60% to 70% of the carrier market share in each state. Averages are based on a 45-year-old married female with a previously clean driving record who commits one traffic driving violation in a 12-month period, drives a 2012 sedan, is employed, has a bachelor’s degree, excellent credit score and had no lapse in coverage with the following limits: $100,000 (bodily injury per person) / $300,000 (bodily injury per accident) / $100,000 (property damage per accident), $10,000 (personal injury protection or medical payments) and a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision.Some car insurers may overlook a traffic ticket if you also have a homeowners insurance policy with them, says Michael Cicero, a traffic attorney in Ohio.
"I come across insurance agents and brokers all the time who tell me that people who bundle multiple types of insurance together usually do better with ticket forgiveness than customers who only have auto coverage," Cicero says.
Hey, if you have a horrible habit of texting while driving, it's quite possible you're about to be put on blast. If you are driving in San Francisco, at least.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Jenna Mullins Original Source: http://eonli.ne/1m3crVo
Brian Singer (not to be confused with director Bryan Singer, who is bringing us X-Men: Days of Future Past soon), has started an online campaign where he takes photos of people texting while driving and posts them on his site, TWIT (texting while in traffic) Spotting. He also asks people to submit photos of their own, taken from the passenger seat, natch.
TWIT Spotting started when Brian realized there was a huge number of people on his daily commute staring at a tiny screen instead of staring at the road while they operate a two-ton killing machine. Also known as cars.
"I've been blown away by the number of people texting while in traffic, on the freeway," he told the site Gizmodo. "For every nose picker, there's 20 texters. Unofficial estimation by me."
Recently, Singer has taken it to a whole new shaming level by renting out billboards around the Bay area to display the photos of texting drivers.
"My hope is that it will freak some people out and make them think twice before picking up the phone while driving," Singer said "My greater hope is that it inspires others to start taking photos, too. If enough people started doing this, it could have a dramatic effect on people's behavior."
There are 11 billboards thus far of TWITing drivers, and appropriately enough, April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month.
Of course, everyone is guilty of at least glancing at their phone while at a red light or stopped in traffic, but it's behavior that needs to stop. It leads to too many deaths and traffic accidents, especially among teenagers. So, we applaud Brian's campaign. For more info on his project, you can read about it on his website.
Don't text and drive, people! Nothing is worth a potentially fatal accident. Not even reading an email that reads "Jake Gyllenhaal goes full frontal for new movie!"
Legislators OK rolling back registration fees from $71.85 annually to $46.80
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Aaron Deslatte Original Source: http://bit.ly/NG7y8O
TALLAHASSEE — Most Florida drivers will start seeing a $25 break on vehicle registration fees in September under a tax-cut plan the Legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott Thursday night.
The $395 million package is the biggest piece of the Republican governor’s election-year pledge to use part of state government’s $1.3 billion in surplus revenues for $500 million in tax cuts.
Illustrating the political importance of the issue, Scott visited the House floor and shook hands with law makers while Democrats in the back rows debated the bill.
The bill, SB 156, passed unanimously 116-0. It cleared the Senate already this week.
The measure would roll back typical auto registration fees from $71.85 annually to their pre-2009 levels of $46.80.
The Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist raised about $2.2 billion in taxes and fees in 2009 to balance a recession-racked budget. The measure this year would roll back part of those increases but leave in place higher taxes and fees that were imposed for courts and cigarettes.
Scott wasted no time laying the blame for the increases on his predecessor and likely Democratic gubernatorial opponent this fall.
“This is a tax increase that Charlie Crist passed in 2009,” Scott told reporters after the vote.
“The right thing happened tonight to reduce these taxes and put more money back in Floridians’ hands.”
Democrats, however, called the cuts “breadcrumbs,”andarguedtheGOP was offering voters a token return of only a portion of the increase in order to win votes.
“What took you so long to do this?” Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, asked the governor on the House floor. “And where’s the $600 million more in tax increases you did?”
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, complained the cut would allow “Some people ... to buy something off the 99-cent menu and McDonald’s.”
“Never underestimate the intelligence of the voters,” he said.
Florida lawmakers also are putting together a package that would offer four separate sales tax “holidays” and include breaks on everything from gym memberships to prepaid phone plans.
The total package, unveiled by the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee on Thursday, would cut taxes for businesses and consumers by around $140 million.
It includes a weeklong “physical fitness” sales-tax holiday for gym memberships in September, which would cost $4.1million.
Another three-day tax holiday for energy-efficient equipment and appliances would offer discounts on items like dehumidifiers, pool pumps, washing machines and even water-efficient toilets.
It would also create permanent tax exemptions for items such as car seats and cement mixers, and offer about 2,000 companies income tax breaks.
The city of Margate plans to remove its four red-light cameras in December saying the cost to maintain them isn’t worth the trouble.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Lisa J. Huriash Original Source: http://bit.ly/1kMQtIU
The cameras have been at two intersections, both on State Road 7 — at Margate Boulevard and West Atlantic Boulevard since October 2011.
The city saw a dramatic decrease in crashes from 2011 to 2012, but crashes actually increased at one of the intersections between 2012 and 2013, according to a city memo.
Still, the program has become too “labor intensive” for those city workers — including a police supervisor, police officer and personnel from the finance and legal departments and city clerk’s office — who “have daily responsibilities” in addition to the program, according to a memo from a police sergeant given to the City Commission.
“I don’t think the cost that’s involved with our staff is worth continuing with the red light cameras,” said Vice Mayor Joanne Simone.
Removing the cameras wasn’t a unanimous decision. Commissioner Frank Talerico said ending the program is a mistake.
“It saves lives, bottom line,” Talerico said. “I don’t care if it’s one life, five lives, 10 lives. One life is important. People are more cautious going through these intersections, they know they may get a ticket. I don’t know how you put a price on that.”
Said Commissioner Tommy Ruzzano: “If we really wanted to save lives we’d put a cop out there. That will definitely cut it down.”
The city issued thousands of citations each year, according to records.
The cameras also documented four incidents in which a Margate police officer or sergeant ran a red light since 2011, police said.
According to a police internal affairs file released Tuesday, a police trainee ran a red light in January while riding with an officer and a prisoner they were taking to a sheriff’s substation in Pompano Beach.
According to the report, “there were no emergencies when this violation occurred that would necessitate disregarding this traffic control signal.” And, their emergency lights were not on. The officers told investigators they were distracted by the prisoner.
Hallandale Beach also decided to quash its camera program when their camera contract expires in December. And red-light cameras will be debated in Tallahassee this spring.
House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have both said they would like to repeal Florida’s 2010 law authorizing local governments to install the cameras.
A study by the Legislature’s policy analysis office determined that across the state, crashes had increased 12 percent at intersections with cameras. But the report also said the fatalities at the 230 camera-equipped intersections on state roads went down 49 percent.
Want to go fast on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County? Using the express lanes will cost you as much as $10.50 starting Saturday.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Michael Turnbell Original Source: http://bit.ly/1fOp7hK
Officials say the current toll rates — as high as $7 when congestion is worst — aren’t stiff enough to limit the number of drivers willing to pay. Too many cars mean slower speeds.
“Driver demand is what sets the toll price,” said Alicia Torrez, a Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
The $7 rate was charged 172 times in 2013, more than double the previous three years combined.
The new minimum toll will be 50 cents, up from a quarter. The new maximum toll rate will be $1.50 per mile, up from $1, to drive the current 7-mile stretch between the Golden Glades and I-395.
Increasing the toll rate is necessary, they say, to keep traffic moving at 45 mph or higher in the express lanes for 90 percent of the time. The state reached that goal only 64 percent of the time in August. Since then, other months also have fallen below 90 percent.
To keep demand in check, the state plans to raise tolls to $2 per mile if the new maximum rate is reached on 45 days during a six-month period.
“Many people will not drive in these lanes because now they can not afford it,” said Steve Sternberg of Boynton Beach. “So we are going to make it easier for more affluent people only to get around quickly.”
Express lanes are set to open on a 13-mile stretch of I-95 between the Golden Glades and Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale by April 2015. Eventually, the plans are planned to go as far north as Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach.
AAA hits state on car seats
Auto agency says Florida needs to toughen up nation’s most lax law on vehicles’ safety seats and boosters for children
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Katie Santich Original Source: http://bit.ly/Oq0UVn
Florida’s law requiring car seats for children is the most lax in the nation, AAA officials say, and the group is pushing lawmakers to adopt more rigorous standards that many claim would save lives and prevent disabling injuries.
Current state law requires only that children up to age 3 be secured in a car seat. Children ages 4 and 5 may be placed in a car seat or booster seat — but, unlike most states, they don’t have to be. Florida law says a seat belt will suffice.
“It’s tragic that kids are getting killed and injured when there’s such an easy, preventable way to stop it,” said State Rep. W. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, who is sponsoring an AAA-backed booster-seat bill in the Florida House. “Kids don’t have a voice, but I think most parents would make the right choice if they knew what that was. Part of my goal is education.”
His bill, like a companion bill in the Florida Senate, would require children to be restrained in a car seat or booster seat through age 7 or until the child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Already, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing car-safety seats for children up to age 2, forward-facing car safety seats for most children through age 4, belt-positioning booster seats for most kids through age 8, and lap-and-shoulder seat belts for kids who have outgrown booster seats. In all cases, the academy recommends, anyone under 13 should ride in the back seat, which is generally safer.
“The consequences of not using appropriate child safety seats can be devastating,” said Karen Morgan, public policy manager of AAA — The Auto Club Group.
Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children age 14 and under. In 2011, the most recent statistics available, more than 650 children age 12 and under died in vehicle crashes across the country, and more than 148,000 were injured. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of those kids were not restrained by seat belts or car seats.
Using a car seat reduces the risk of death for infants under a year old by 71 percent, and for toddlers by 54 percent, the CDC reports. Using a booster seat for children age 4 to 8 cuts their risk of serious injury by nearly half by positioning the belt across the shoulder and lap rather than the child’s neck and stomach.
AAA has lobbied to pass similar legislation in Florida for years without success. In 2001, the law overwhelmingly passed in both the state House of Representatives and Senate — but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who said that it would be difficult to enforce and might impose an unfair hardship on low-income families. The governor also said he favored parents, not government, taking responsibility for protecting children.
Perry acknowledges that similar sentiment persists, but he counters, “We’re not coming up with some new requirement. It’s simply modifying the law to be more effective for kids.”
And Morgan said the nation’s embrace of car seats has strengthened considerably since 2001.
“Now every other state has a stronger law,” she said. “And there are several places that people can go to get [free or low-cost] car seats for their children — hospitals, fire stations, AAA.”
Too, the tougher standards have support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Florida Emergency Nurses Association.
“We have to deal with the aftermath of children involved in crashes who have not been properly restrained,” said Penny Blake, an emergency nurse who chairs the association’s government affairs committee. “We are the ones who have to try to save the child’s life or organs and who have to comfort the parents — many of whom feel guilty. They did not know that something as simple as a booster seat might have made all the difference.”
On the other hand, because so many authorities now recommend car seats and booster seats for children up to 4-feet, 9-inches tall, some Florida parents assume it’s already the law here.
“I thought you had to put them in a booster seat until age 7,” said Eric Sutton, an Orlando father of two boys under age 5. “The 4 1/2-year-old just graduated to a booster seat three months ago — and there’s no way I’m letting him ride without that for a very long time.”
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Michael Turnbell Original Source: http://bit.ly/1kyq2Gm
It’s an unusual sight on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County this week: Lots of troopers and lots of drivers being pulled over.
The Florida Highway Patrol launched Operation I-95 Saturation on Monday, flooding a 16-mile stretch of I-95 in Miami-Dade with twice as many troopers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Speeders and aggressive drivers are the target.
The five-day crackdown, which lasts until Friday, comes after troopers have received numerous complaints from drivers about excessive speeding in the express lanes, which run seven miles from the Golden Glades interchange to I-395.
To create tolled express lanes without cutting back on the number of free lanes, all lanes on I-95 between I-395 and the Golden Glades were narrowed from 12 feet to 11 feet.
In most places, shoulders now are only 8 feet. That leaves troopers with few spots where they can safely pull over drivers.
“We’re very, very limited where we can make traffic stops. People know that and say there’s no place for them to stop me so I’m going to go as fast as I want. They’re using it to their advantage,” said Trooper Joe Sanchez, spokesman for the patrol in Miami-Dade. “It’s really been a problem for us.”
Troopers hope the high visiblity of cruisers and sirens on I-95 and the sight of drivers being pulled over this week will be a deterrent.
In addition to watching for excessive speeders, troopers will be looking for drivers who change lanes erratically or cut in and out of the plastic poles that separate the express lanes from the free lanes.
Sanchez couldn’t cite the number of citations given Monday but said troopers “had written a lot of tickets.”
Typically, only three troopers patrol I-95 between the Broward-Miami-Dade county line and U.S.1south of downtown Miami.
In December, the average speed in the express lanes for most of the day was 66 mph southbound and 64 mph northbound, or about 5 mph over the speed limit.
The speed limit on I-95 south of the Golden Glades between Northwest 151st Street and State Road 112 was increased from 55 to 60 mph last September.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: BRITTANY SHAMMAS Original Source: http://bit.ly/1dc5AXL
Are you an aggressive driver?
State law says you are if you commit two of the following traffic violations at the same time:
• Improper and sudden lane changes
• Running red lights or stop signs
• Cutting people off or not yielding the right of way
On a recent weekday afternoon, it’s a red Dodge Magnum that catches Palm Beach County Deputy Jason Karlecke’s eye as he roams Interstate 95. The car comes up in the carpool lane from behind and screams past. The deputy’s radar unit flashes its speed in red block numbers: 94 miles per hour.
“That would have never happened with a marked unit,” says Karlecke, a cop for 16 years.
The Magnum starts weaving between lanes and cutting in front of other cars, still doing 90-some miles per hour. On come the lights and sirens in Karlecke’s unmarked car and soon enough, the car is pulled over on the side of the road.
This driver gets off easy. He tells Karlecke he’s rushing to a wreck a family member was involved in, and the deputy — noticing an upset woman in the passenger seat — believes him enough to give him a warning and send him on his way.
Under normal circumstances, the driver would have been cited for aggressive driving, which carries heftier penalties than a typical violation. State law says a drivers are aggressive if they commit two specific traffic violations at the same time.
The violations include speeding, tailgating, running red lights or stop signs, improperly changing lanes, improperly passing and failing to yield the right of way.
Deputies assigned to the Palm Beach County Sheriff ’s Office’s Aggressive Driving Unit blend in with traffic in their unmarked patrol cars, looking for drivers who are the worst of the worst: the ones blowing the speed limit, darting in and out of lanes, tailing other cars or charging through red lights.
They don’t pull over people who make petty mistakes. Their job is to stop the drivers who put everyone else on the road at risk.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has had the squad since 2006. It started out with a four-year grant from the Department of Transportation. When that ran out, the sheriff’s office absorbed the costs to keep it.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said the unit has paid dividends, and the results are evident in the decreasing number of citations written for aggressive driving in Palm Beach County.
In 2011, sheriff’s deputies issued 1,681 aggressive driving citations. In 2012, that number dropped to 1,393 and in 2013 it fell even further, to 1,118.
That, Barbera said, is proof the approach is working and the main reason Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has kept the unit on the road.
Broward County also has an aggressive driving unit, which works with other agencies to target dangerous people behind the wheel.
In a recent operation in December, the Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol issued 189 tickets to aggressive drivers in one four-hour period, including one driver who was going 110 miles per hour and another who drove north on a southbound exit ramp.
Members of the aggressive driving squad are equipped with state-of-the-art gadgets that help gauge speed. The cars they drive have radar mounted on their dashboards and at their back windows, so they can get the speed of vehicles behind and in front of them.
They also carry binocular-like devices that use radar to clock a car’s speed. You hold it up to your eyes, point it at a car and the speed pops up. These deputies are also trained in estimating a car’s speed just by looking at it.
Six deputies are assigned to the unit. They patrol the interstate and roadways throughout the county, waiting for someone to drive aggressively.
It usually doesn’t take long.
After stopping the Magnum, Karlecke steers his Dodge Charger toward West Palm Beach and takes a spin down Okeechobee Boulevard. He soon spots a black Volvo SUV blazing through a red light. The guy is going about 15 miles per hour over the speed limit.
There’s no real demographic when it comes to them, Karlecke says. He’s caught teenagers, senior citizens, men and women driving aggressively.
“It’s people late to work; it’s people late to an appointment,” Karlecke said. “It can be absolutely anything, absolutely everybody
— anyone who’s impatient.”
They almost always have an excuse. Once, a driver barreling down an empty rural road told Karlecke he was just keeping up with traffic.
When the deputy pointed out that the road was clear for miles, the guy gestured ahead and said he was trying to catch up to the cars “way up there.”
A man driving his motorcycle down Interstate 95 at 160 miles per hour — the fastest speed Karlecke’s ever caught someone doing
— said he was trying to “open it up.”
Karlecke, who’s been chasing aggressive drivers since the unit’s debut, said they seem to be getting more common on South Florida roadways.
“People are in a bigger hurry,” he said, and they’ve got less patience.
But Palm Beach County residents are catching on to the presence of the Aggressive Driving Unit and the fact its deputies are watching from cars that don’t stand out. That’s actually a good thing, Karlecke says.
“People know you’re there,” he said. “They’re slowing down, and that’s what you want.”