It works in Michigan. What about here?
Going undercover may be one of the better ways to prevent unnecessary traffic fatalities, if we’re to believe a new program coming out of Michigan.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several police departments In Macomb County and Shelby Township have been conducting covert operations to crack down on distracted driving behavior. Among them is a program called Operation Ghostrider, and it’s paying dividends for cops struggling to clearly identify people breaking the law.
As the Journal reports, officers in Macomb County ride in unmarked cars while others roam busy streets disguised as panhandlers, a subversive but effective way to catch distracted drivers in the act of texting or even applying makeup while driving. Stats compiled by the Journal reveal that the Ghostrider op. is responsible for pulling over 140 drivers and issuing more than 100 citations since the start of the campaign. In two four-hour stretches, Shelby Township Police pulled over 93 drivers, all of which received traffic citations.
It’s not just working in Michigan, either. Another program in Tennessee sees officers ride in large buses, a tactic designed to provide a better vantage point when patrolling traffic. And while the buses are marked, the results have typically been the same.
Chicago might take a lesson from Michigan and Tennessee. It wasn’t long ago that Tribune columnist Mary Wisniewski detailed how distracted driving tickets fell precipitously in 2016, down to a few hundred from tens of thousands just a couple years ago. It seems Chicago’s problems stem from less manpower and more bureaucratic red tape.
Those are just two problems. But we’ll have bigger problems if we continue to ignore a deadly trend.
Over the last two years the country has seen a surge in motor-vehicle related fatalities, up six percent in 2015 and up 14 percent compared to 2014. Nearly every expert agrees: distracted driving is one, if not the, primary culprit.
There are differences between rural townships in Michigan and a city like Chicago. But whatever the differences, we can all agree that more needs to be done locally to prevent the city’s downward trend from spiraling further out of control. It doesn’t hurt to look at examples of things that’s proved successful elsewhere.