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Reduce Traffic Collisions by Targeting Unlicensed Drivers

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 70 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 47-49
Terry Holderness
Date Published
September 2003
3 pages
This article describes the various ways in which jurisdictions have sought to remove unlicensed drivers from the roadways, since this group of drivers has been found to be involved in a disproportionate number of traffic collisions, fatalities, and hit-and-run incidents.
In order to reduce the number of drivers on the road without valid driver's licenses, several States have attempted to impose sanctions against vehicles driven by those persons. The sanctions include taking vehicle registration tags so the offender is easier to spot when driving, requiring vehicle interlock devices that prevent people from driving after drinking alcohol, and enacting laws the require vehicles to be impounded, immobilized, or seized. In 1996 Fresno received a 2-year grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety to assign five full-time officers to target unlicensed drivers or drivers operating a vehicle with suspended licenses. These officers were also required to present educational programs for unlicensed drivers, as well as serve arrest warrants on subjects wanted for license violations. One deputy district attorney was hired and assigned to prosecute these cases. By seeking to increase penalties and conviction rates, Fresno sought to deter such high-risk drivers. During the first year of the grant, collisions that caused injuries and deaths were reduced by 30 percent. In 2000 Fontana (California) received a similar grant to develop and implement a program called F-Stop(Fontana Serious Traffic Offender Program). This program focused on citing violators and impounding their vehicles. The program did not aim to increase other penalties and conviction rates or serve warrants. The program components included the use of additional resources to conduct driver's license checkpoints and courthouse sting operations. The F-Stop program began in September 2000 and ended in September 2002. The department compared enforcement and crash data from calendar year 1998 (the last year for which traffic crash statistics were available) with data from the two consecutive 12-month periods after the grant officers began work on the program. During the first year of the program, impoundments increased by 100 percent; during the second year, impoundments were down slightly but were still 85 percent higher than in 1998. Traffic collisions during the first 12-month period of the grant were down 18 percent from 1998; and in the second year, injury traffic collisions were down 21 percent from 1998. Injury traffic collisions per capita in the last 12-month period of the program were 38 percent lower than such collisions per capita in 1998. Hit-and-run injury traffic collisions also decreased significantly during the grant period compared with 1998. 12 notes