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By Sheriff Michael P. Filicetti
Niagara County Sheriff’s Office
I have heard many times from individuals that traffic enforcement is thought of as a revenue generator or unnecessary. My hope in this column is to offer a perspective on traffic enforcement that shows you the need for this function of law enforcement. Traffic enforcement can save lives, reduce traffic collisions, have positive impacts on the community, and offer crime reduction.
Over the last few years, we have experienced a severe uptick in aggressive driving in Niagara County. We are not alone in this increase, as counties across New York state have seen this, as well.
It can possibly be attributed to many bad driving habits, which came about during COVID. With less vehicles on our roadways, drivers started to take some liberties in their motor vehicle operation. Increasingly, we saw motorists passing red lights, going through stop signs, driving distracted, speeding and committing lane violations.
Following COVID restrictions, many drivers returned to the road, and now the problems were compounded by adding more vehicles to this aggressive driving behavior.
Law enforcement across Niagara County recognized this issue and acted to deter the problem. A significant aggressive driving campaign was put into place in the fall months of 2022. With every law enforcement agency engaged in this enforcement, we saw over 1,300 traffic tickets issued during a one-week period for the driving habits I detailed above.
This shows that we have a significant issue with risky driving behaviors. We are committed to continued enforcement to reduce incidents of aggressive driving and make our roadways safer.
I believe it is helpful for our residents to understand why enforcement is done in certain areas, and how we decide to target certain locations. Areas of enforcement are determined by traffic crash data, observations by patrol units and complaints from our residents. We have been receiving an increasing number of civilian complaints regarding aggressive vehicle operation.
Niagara County also experienced an increase of over 250 motor vehicle crashes from 2021 to 2022. Based on all of these factors, patrols are assigned to provide additional enforcement for violations in those areas.
Enforcement does not necessarily mean that every operator will receive a ticket for their offense. I am a firm believer in proactive enforcement and conducting traffic stops. There may be circumstances that dictate other action than a traffic ticket. Traffic stops can be used as an opportunity to educate the public and also offer reminders of traffic laws.
The goal of traffic enforcement is to reduce incidents of traffic violations and reduce collisions. Data has consistently shown that traffic enforcement can reduce incidents of traffic crashes. Additionally, certain causation factors remain constant as the leading contributors to crashes. Failure to yield right of way, driver distraction and unsafe speed are three of the top contributing factors that lead to motor vehicle crashes. This is one of the key reasons our patrols enforce violations of these sections of the vehicle and traffic law.
Traffic stops can also lead to a reduction of crime in our community. Law enforcement is well aware that criminal offenders use vehicles to commit crimes. Traffic stops and enforcement can lead to the discovery of activity that is far more serious than a traffic violation. Stops can be instrumental in interrupting criminal activity and reducing criminal activity in our county.
I hope this information offers you some insight as to why traffic enforcement is critical to public safety, and also explains the purpose behind the vehicle stops we conduct daily.
Law enforcement in Niagara County is a partnership, and we are all committed to safer roadways. Safer roadways lead to safer communities.