Police invite Channel 3 for traffic patrol as fatalities increase
Traffic fatalities are up this year in Chattanooga and its keeping police busy with both investigations and preventative traffic stops.
Channel 3 rode along with Officer Randy Poland with the Chattanooga Police Department during a daily shift. Poland says he is first and foremost a traffic investigator. Running radar comes secondary and he’s been busy this year working many of the city’s 29 fatal crashes. There were 25 fatal crashes for all of 2014.
"We haven't changed any of our methods, we're still out here,” he said. "But we've had a number of serious crashes and traffic fatalities in Chattanooga. My whole job is to get them to slow down."
Poland says he writes tickets to change driver behavior. He says his flashing blue lights pulled off to the side of the road can be just as effective for getting drivers to slow down.
“It's about changing people's driving behavior because we want people to live another day,” he said.
TICKET OR WARNING?
Police have discretion on whether to give a ticket or a warning. Poland says he takes plenty of things into consideration, including driving history, and that not everyone needs a ticket.
"Giving a warning sometimes, if that does what it's supposed to do then I've done my job,” he said. "I would rather him have a good experience and not everyone I'm going to give a ticket to."
QUOTAS: REAL OR MYTH?
There’s a long-held belief that police have to meet a monthly quota of traffic tickets. That’s not the case at the Chattanooga Police Department. Dalton, Cleveland and Hamilton County all confirm they don’t have any kind of quota system either.
“Thing is, people think we're writing tickets for money,” he said. “I'm writing tickets to try and change behavior. It's not about money. It's about changing behavior is what it’s about."
Chattanooga Police Lt. David Gibb talked with Channel 3 about how the traffic division is trying to change driving behavior one citation at a time.
Gibb talked about some of the most common violations he and his officers find on the roadways, including speeding, following too closely, distracted driving and cutting in.
- FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY: “I like to look for one car length for every 10 mile per hour you’re going. So if the speed limit is 55 mph in Chattanooga, you should be about 5.5 car lengths behind. That should give you enough time to react if the car does something in front of you.”
- RECKLESS DRIVING: “Reckless driving is a willful and want intent to do harm to another by a vehicle.So if you’re driving an excessive speed, you’re cutting in, you’re following too closely, you’re distracted. We use a combination of lower charges to get to reckless driving. It’s basically someone with no regards for anybody on the road.”
- DISTRACTED DRIVING: “When you get behind a distracted driver, it’s almost like you’re behind an intoxicated driver. We need people to put that device down and part of the law they need to know is if a device distracts them, they don’t have to be texting.”
- CUTTING IN: “If you’re cutting in and out of traffic or you’re negotiating from lane to lane to maintain a speed, that’s called cutting in. You don’t have to necessarily be cutting someone off.”
“We need people to realize that it’s time to slow down and drive careful and realize a car is a tool to get from point A to point B, that’s what a car is,” said Lt. David Gibb. “The cell phones and all the distractions that go with it, they need to be put down.”