Boone County rolls out safety initiative to curb dangerous driving

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The Boone County Traffic Safety Partnership is stepping up patrols to curb dangerous and aggressive driving with an enforcement campaign that began Feb. 25 and runs through March 21.

BCTSP is a group of full-time officers and deputies from five law enforcement agencies in Boone County that aim to decrease the number of motorists killed and injured on Indiana roadways. The agencies include: the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Lebanon Police Dept., Thorntown Police Dept., Whitestown Metropolitan Police Dept., and Zionsville Police Dept. Boone County Sheriff Michael Nielsen is the BCTSP program director.

Designed to reduce crashes and traffic fatalities and to promote safe driving around St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Tournament, the safety initiative comes at a time when roadway deaths continue to climb across the state and nation.

Nationwide, traffic fatalities continued to rise at a record pace last year, according to recently released federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study projects that an estimated 31,720 people were killed on U.S. roadways in the first nine months of 2021, a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2020.

In Indiana, preliminary data from Indiana Criminal Justice Institute shows that 941 people died in crashes last year. While that’s up 5 percent from 2020, it’s a 16 percent increase from pre-pandemic 2019 and represents the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2005.

Alcohol and drug impairment, distracted driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts are some of the leading causes behind the rise in fatalities.

“Last year, Indiana saw more traffic fatalities than we’ve seen in over a decade, and it doesn’t appear to be improving,” ICJI Executive Director Devon McDonald stated. “So far this year, fatal crashes in Indiana have claimed the lives of two and a half people every day on average with over 100 lives lost already. It’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to turn this around.”

In response, officers will be conducting high-visibility patrols over the next several weeks, showing zero tolerance for anyone driving aggressively, over the speed limit, or under the influence. The extra enforcement is funded through NHTSA grants administered by the ICJI.

“We cannot and should not tolerate the continuing crisis on our roadways,” ICJI Traffic Safety Director Robert Duckworth stated. “Every driver and vehicle occupant has a responsibility when traveling. We need more people to take this seriously and to drive like their life depends on it, because it does.”

Throughout the campaign, the department will be encouraging motorists to focus on safe driving and follow the rules of the road. This means wearing a seat belt at all times, driving sober, watching for pedestrians, driving distraction-free and obeying all posted speed limits.

However, officers say some precautions should be taken before getting behind the wheel. For plans that involve alcohol, designate a sober driver ahead of time or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.

“Every person that chooses to drive recklessly or impaired represents a serious threat to public safety,” Boone County Sheriff Michael Nielsen stated. “Choices behind the wheel matter. One mistake is all it takes for someone to get injured. We’re asking all drivers to take responsibility and make smart decisions. Let’s work together to keep our roads and community safe.”

Motorists are encouraged to call 911 if they encounter an impaired or unsafe driver on the road.

To learn more about The Boone County Sheriff’s Office please visit boonecountyindianasheriff.com.

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