The Philadelphia Police Department will join a regional effort Wednesday to address reckless driving, which seems to show no signs of stopping.
Philadelphia’s is one of more than 60 police departments from the five-county area joining Pennsylvania State Police “in a coordinated aggressive-driving enforcement wave,” honing in on red-light violations, tailgating, and pedestrian safety, according to PennDot.
“They don’t really do it to say we’re going to try to give people tickets,” PennDot spokesperson Robyn Briggs said. “It’s more of a safety measure, and by them announcing that ‘we’re going to be out there,' they’re hoping it’s going to slow people down and just make people aware.”
The summer “wave,” part of the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement and Education Project created in 2006, started this month and will last through Aug. 23, Briggs said. Wednesday will be a “consolidated effort” to draw attention to the issue across the state.
In 2019, there were 1,546 aggressive-driving related crashes, resulting in 22 fatalities, in the five-county area according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data.
While the campaign is not in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some drivers during the shutdown have been seen using highways like private race tracks. Mayor Jim Kenney said in May that violations had “increasingly become a dangerous side effect of the stay-at-home order.”
The problem hasn’t abated even as traffic volume ticks up and more businesses reopen.
The number of “reckless auto” 911 calls grew from 636 in February to a high of 1,497 in May, said city spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco. So far this month, there have been 1,021.
“Unfortunately, it seems that aggressive driving has not slowed,” Cofrancisco said in a statement. “This trend in Philadelphia is in line with what other cities are seeing nationally; traffic is down across the board, but aggressive driving and crashes are increasing.”
Funding from the state Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allow the police departments to boost efforts, with about $519,000 allocated to the region for the October 2019-September 2020 fiscal year, Briggs said. Earlier “waves” of the education campaign this fiscal year focused on school bus safety and distracted driving, she said.
State grant funding allows officers to use overtime to conduct aggressive driving enforcement, Cofrancisco said.