DELAWARE STATE POLICE TRAFFIC SECTION
Captain Sherri L. Benson
Tasked with numerous responsibilities surrounding the goal of reducing motor vehicle collisions, the Delaware State Police Traffic Operations Section performs an array of diverse functions. At the Headquarters Building in Dover, administrative and support duties are performed which relate to statewide record keeping and Divisional traffic enforcement. Based out of the Blackbird and Rt. 301 weigh facilities in lower New Castle County, the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU) is charged with proactive and reactive enforcement related to commercial vehicles.
Personnel assigned to the Headquarters Building fulfill several key duties and responsibilities. Among them is the development of traffic initiatives, programs and campaigns designed to promote increased enforcement and police visibility on our highways. To provide the logic for these, the Traffic Section Tactical Analyst utilizes the Criminal Highway Analysis and Mapping for Public Safety (CHAMPS) system to acutely identify and isolate problem traffic areas throughout the state. Statistics are also provided by the Divisional Statistician to assist in these efforts.
An effective analytical tool specifically for fatal crashes is the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Housed within the Traffic Operations Section, this nationwide mechanism provides for the FARS Coordinator to collect statewide fatal crash data in an expeditious manner. The data is then analyzed and placed into statistical databases within the state, and at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). FARS data yields some of the most accurate, real-time statistics available, which provides a formidable tool to plan initiatives to combat traffic fatalities.
In their seventh year of operation, Electronic Red Light Safety Program (ERLSP) technicians assess red light violations captured on camera at 37 different approaches at 19 different intersections throughout the state. Since the program’s inception, we have seen tangible proof of the successes yielded by this program, as evidenced by a reduction of 6,227 in red light assessments, along with a congruent drop in intersection crash rates.
The three ERLSP Technicians assigned to the Traffic Operations Section oversaw the issuing of 28,271 red light violation assessments, totaling nearly $3 million in fines. These totals are from the 19 intersections that are monitored by DSP.
One of the significant responsibilities of the Traffic Operations Section is the collection and archiving of motor vehicle collision reports, along with the dissemination of them to the public, attorneys’ offices, insurance companies and others with vested interests in specific collisions. In 2011 - data entry clerks in the Traffic Operations Section fulfilled and distributed 12,922 requests for collision reports, which exceeds the total number of motor vehicle collisions that occurred in State Police serviced areas.
During 2011 the Traffic Section was assigned to oversee the training and supervision of the new Digital In-Car Cameras. Approximately 197 cameras were installed in patrol cars and each troop received a computer to view and burn DVDs. The Traffic Section is also responsible now for sending DUI DVDs to the respective Attorney Generals offices and troops.
Members assigned to the Truck Enforcement Unit (TEU) are primarily responsible for the operation of the Blackbird and Rt. 301 weigh facilities. Additionally, TEU personnel take portable scales to various locations throughout the state to conduct commercial vehicle weight checks, while also ensuring congruence with size regulations.
In addition to TEU, the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) is also structured under the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit. This unit’s primary responsibility is to inspect commercial vehicles, and their operators, to affirm congruence with governmental regulations. The majority of these inspections are done at various locations throughout the state, while many are conducted at the Blackbird and Rt. 301 weigh facilities.
In 2011, the MCSAP and TEU units accomplished the following—
• Commercial motor vehicle inspections conducted:
• Commercial motor vehicles weighed on fixed and portable scales: 37,334
• Drivers placed out of service for non-compliance with regulations: 289
• Vehicles placed out of service for non-compliance with regulations: 809
• Traffic arrests for dangerous, moving violations: 1,131
• Traffic arrests for other violations: 1,673
• Seat belt arrests: 208
In Delaware during 2011, there were 84 fatal crashes. Although any number denoting traffic deaths is tragic, this represents an increase of one (1) from the previous year. Of those crashes, 14 involved pedestrians. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs (DUI) ranked as the #1 cause of fatal crashes. For personal injury and property damage collisions, Inattentive Driving ranked as the #1 contributor for injury collisions.
In an effort to reduce these crashes throughout the year, the Delaware State Police actively participated in numerous traffic enforcement campaigns, most of which were funded by the Delaware Office of Highway Safety. Additionally, the Traffic Operations Section directed traffic action plans each quarter to target crash producing behaviors. Each patrol troop implemented its own quarterly action plan based upon motor vehicle collision trends, noted dangerous driving behaviors and citizen complaints in each troop’s specific area. Police visibility was notably increased on targeted highways, which yielded crash reductions and more compliant driving behaviors in the involved areas. The Office of Highway Safety funded special enforcement in the areas of DUI, Aggressive Driving, Child Restraint and Seat belts. These jobs focused on Holidays, Summer Months with high traffic volume, Special Events( ie. NFL Playoffs, Superbowl, Punkin Chunkin), etc.
As a continuing project, Troopers assigned to Headquarters and other non-patrol units conducted enforcement activities during the four major holiday weekends— Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving. During this initiative, extra Troopers were assigned to notable crash areas identified from the previous year’s statistics, to promote increased visibility. As a result, no personal injury or fatal crashes occurred on any assigned highways, which fulfilled the initiative’s intended purpose.
Overall, Delaware Troopers yielded numerous traffic arrests to battle crashes and negative driving behaviors throughout Delaware in 2011. Troopers made the following arrests during the year:
• Total traffic arrests: 106,755
• Aggressive driving-related: 59, 842
• Aggressive driving (specific): 382
• DUI: 3,161
• Inattentive driving: 3, 649
- Information obtained from 2011 DSP Annual Report -