NMA E-Newsletter #144: Traffic Safety Teams

Several communities around the country have established teams of advocates to address traffic safety issues. The teams usually consist of members from city, county, state, and (sometimes) federal agencies along with private industry representatives and local citizens.

The goal of the traffic safety team (TST) typically is to reduce the number and severity of traffic incidents through enhancement of Engineering, Education (public information), Emergency Services, and Enforcement efforts.

It is that last major “E” that creates controversy, particularly in Marion County, Oregon where the local TST is structured as a self-funding entity.

Yes, the ability of the team to cruise around in a fleet of motorcycles, Ford Mustangs, and Dodge Chargers — according to the county’s website — is dependent on the number of traffic tickets handed out via a kind of neighborhood watch program on steroids.

Marion County puts a nice spin on its TST program, describing it as a system that “effectively uses funds from those contributing to traffic safety problems to enforce traffic laws and our traffic safety programs.”

The Oregon NMA member who pointed out the Marion County TST policy to us isn’t fooled by government rhetoric.

He notes, “I’m led to believe that the (TST) unit depends solely upon fines and bail forfeitures for its ongoing existence. Were those to dry up, the team deputies would have to return to normal police work in the rural portions of the county rather than enjoying the thrill of driving a new Ford Mustang up and down the interstate highway. One might infer that there is a clear motivation for each unit deputy to write as many traffic citations as possible.”

The traffic safety team concept, particularly when it is focused on improving highway safety through public education, improved engineering practices, and responsive emergency services, can be a valuable community service.

Programs like that of Marion County, Oregon, however, provide another dubious example of revenue and self-interest being given priority over highway safety.

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