State to Pa. drivers: Don't be so aggressive

Aggressive enforcement of driving laws and a crackdown on aggressive driving: In Lower Merion it's both, as Police Officers M.T. Miller (left) and Joseph Hunsicker wade into traffic on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr to pull over a driver.
Aggressive enforcement of driving laws and a crackdown on aggressive driving: In Lower Merion it's both, as Police Officers M.T. Miller (left) and Joseph Hunsicker wade into traffic on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr to pull over a driver. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 17, 2013

The State of Pennsylvania is sending a message to drivers: Slow down, back off, chill out.

For the next month, law enforcement agencies along the 350-mile Route 30 corridor will work overtime to target and ticket aggressive drivers.

So what qualifies as "aggressive?"

Tailgating. Running red lights. Weaving. Giving too little space to cyclists and pedestrians. And, of course, there are more directly aggressive moves - honking, flipping the bird, yelling, even assault - associated with road rage.

But according to State Trooper Danea Durham, speeding is the No. 1 sign of an aggressive driver.

"Everybody needs to get where they're going safely," she said. "People are basically not being considerate of each other anymore."

The problem is compounded, she said, when one aggressive driver begets another.

For example, Driver A is running late or doesn't have clear directions. He cuts

off Driver B, who gets angry and starts tailgating to show his displeasure.

"I tell people, 'Think about it. Have you ever made a mistake while driving?' she said. "Give people the benefit of the doubt, Maybe they didn't do it on purpose."

To start the crackdown, Lower Merion police set up a speed zone Monday to catch drivers violating the 25 m.p.h. limit on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, part of the statewide Route 30.

Most drivers were upset at being caught and would not agree to an interview. Anne Curran, of Haverford, was more bewildered at the alleged violation.

After an officer told her she had been clocked at 37 m.p.h., she said, "I had just pulled out of the car wash, so I don't know how I could have been going that fast."

Lou Belmonte, the traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation's Philadelphia district, said Lancaster Avenue is a historic road that "clearly was never designed for the traffic it experiences."

With the street being punctuated by frequent stoplights, a pedestrian-friendly business district, and residential neighborhoods, it's easy to see why the speed limit through Bryn Mawr and Ardmore was set at 25 m.p.h. But for many drivers, Lancaster Avenue is basically a four-lane straight shot from Philadelphia to the Blue Route.

Lower Merion Police Superintendent Michael McGrath said the township logged 483 crashes on Lancaster Avenue in 2012, many attributed to aggressive driving.

Statewide, PennDot data show 6,761 aggressive driving crashes in 2012 - up 6.8 percent from 2011. Fatalities in aggressive driving crashes rose even more - 13.7 percent.

The crackdown, dubbed "HEAT on 30," is part of a statewide enforcement wave funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It runs through Aug. 15, covering more than 400 areas where data show aggressive driving to be heaviest, according to PennDot.

Police also will be on the lookout for seat belt violations, texting while driving, and distracted driving, which Belmonte said can be a precursor to aggressive driving.


Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, jparks@philly.com or follow on Twitter @JS_Parks.

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