Friday, January 9, 2004
Carmel on the Case
Air Date: 01/06/2004
Reported By: Carmel Cafiero
Carmel on the Case
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Call it road rage -- or simply overly offensive driving -- the streets of South Florida can be dangerous indeed. And that's why the Florida Highway Patrol has developed a new weapon for the New Year in the war against aggressive drivers. And tonight, we're getting a first look at it -- in action. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the road and - "On The Case."
(WSVN) -- There are more drivers on the road these days than ever before.
And many have become so aggressive behind the wheel - they're killing people.
Carmel Cafiero: "How fast is he going?"
Trooper Sean Brammer: "80 miles an hour and we're increasing."
From a need for speed...
Trooper Sean Brammer: "And he's like sitting on this guy's bumper right now."
To weaving in and out of traffic...
Trooper Sean Brammer: "There he goes again."
Carmel Cafiero: "So that's three lane changes in ten seconds?"
Trooper Sean Brammer: "Ten seconds."
This kind of aggressive driving is believed to be responsible for more than half of all traffic fatalities.
Lt. Bill Ferrell of Florida Highway Patrol: "It's something that we've taken seriously over the years, and we've gotten to the point now where it's time to do something different - so we have a little surprise for everybody."
Troopers in Broward County will soon be behind the wheels of some hot, new undercover cars.
They'll be unveiled later this week...but we have a sneak peek.
They've got motors with lots of muscle... and on the road appear to be quite invisible.
Trooper Sean Brammer: "See, like he's getting real impatient. See he's making that lane change. He's probably gonna pick up speed here in a little bit."
We rode along with trooper Brammer, as he took one of the new stealth vehicles out for the first time.
Trooper Sean Brammer: "With this, it just looks like a regular car, and they just keep going."
No one ever had a clue who was watching.
Trooper Sean Brammer: "OK, see this guy right here? Look at him."
Carmel Cafiero: "Oh, yeah."
Trooper Sean Brammer: "I guarantee he is going to try to cut in between this other car. There he goes. Speeding. There he goes again."
Carmel Cafiero: "Oh, my."
Trooper Sean Brammer: "See? And then he cut this lady off, she had to hit her brakes. And he's still on the back of that car. See, he's gone again!"
Carmel Cafiero: "This is the classic aggressive driver?"
Trooper Sean Brammer: "He's done everything you can think of right here."
Carmel Cafiero: "I'd like to know why you were driving like that?"
Driver Lesly Louis: "I'm headed to Port St. Lucie, I don't live here, and I was trying to get home."
Carmel Cafiero: "But, don't you realize you jeopardize all the people on the road around you?"
Lesly Louis: "Yeah - but I - yeah - I shouldn't have done it."
Carmel Cafiero: "To give you some idea about just how many aggressive drivers there are out here - consider this: Trooper Brammer stopped and ticketed bad drivers, roughly -- every five minutes."
Trooper Sean Brammer: "The reason why I stopped you, you're speeding at 80 miles an hour, and you're cutting in and out of traffic in short bursts and that can cause an accident."
This driver from Orlando admits he is "probably" an aggressive driver.
Others, however, would not describe themselves that way.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you normally drive like that?"
Driver John Lantz: "No, just today."
He was having a bad day.
They're from out of town and lost.
He was in a hurry.
She was just keeping up with traffic.
And he was listening to music.
Trooper Sean Brammer: "That will be a hundred and seventy-one dollars."
The troopers hope the aggressive driving tickets and increased enforcement will encourage all of us - to take a new - and more relaxed and courteous approach to driving - in the new year.
Don't forget, if there's something you think Carmel should investigate... give her a call...
Another Related Article
FHP to deploy extra unmarked cars to catch aggressive drivers in S. Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Charles Miller experiences it at least once a day on Interstate 595: An aggressive driver speeds by, tailgates or cuts him off.
"It makes me apprehensive," said Miller, 57, a retiree who lives near Davie. "Even if you drive defensively, some of this driving behavior is so flagrant that you can't be totally on the alert 100 percent of the time."
Complaints from people such as Miller have prompted the Florida Highway Patrol to launch a new, aggressive driving enforcement and public education operation today in Broward County. The Palm Beach County launch will be Jan. 23.
Highway Patrol officials said the program is long overdue.
"It's not uncommon for a motorist minding their own business to have someone pass them at 100 mph," said Lt. Bill Ferrell. "We receive multiple calls every day regarding these driving patterns."
Ten troopers will be assigned to the aggressive driving team for both counties, and they will take turns driving four unmarked cars. At least one vehicle will be on the road at all times, Ferrell said.
Troopers will track motorists using radar and video cameras, both of which will prove in traffic court that a violator was driving aggressively. The Highway Patrol also will use aircraft to locate aggressive drivers and direct troopers on the ground to pull them over.
In Broward, troopers will focus on Interstates 95, 75 and 595, though other areas such as U.S. 27 will also be patrolled. The operation in Palm Beach will take place on I-95.
The Highway Patrol's turnpike troop has had at least one unmarked vehicle patrolling for aggressive drivers on the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county portions of the highway for more than a year, Lt. Pat Santangelo said.
Troopers who patrol Miami-Dade County outside of Florida's Turnpike already are trained to look for aggressive drivers, Miami-Dade troop spokesman Lt. Julio Pajon said.
A motorist must commit at least two moving violations in the presence of a police officer to be cited for driving aggressively, according to a state law passed in 2001. The violations usually include speeding, tailgating and improper lane changing.
If a trooper stops someone for aggressive driving, the violator will likely get a ticket for the offenses committed, and the officer will check an "aggressive driving" box on the citation.
Though no additional fines or driver's license points are automatically assessed for aggressive driving, a traffic court judge could impose a higher fine or make the defendant take an eight-hour aggressive driving course, said Mary Mossie of the Broward County Clerk of Courts Office.
Last year, the FHP issued about 2,300 tickets for aggressive driving in Broward County, excluding the turnpike. That was about 1,000 more than in 2002, Ferrell said. Santangelo didn't have statistics for the turnpike, but he estimated half the citations are for aggressive driving.
Officials with FHP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could not say how many crashes, injuries or deaths have resulted from aggressive driving because records have been lumped together with other incidents.
Prior to the 2001 law in Florida, motorists stopped for driving aggressively were usually given a careless driving ticket, Ferrell said.
He said his agency will lead discussions at local high schools and civic organizations to stress the dangers.
"We think a lot of these drivers are young people," Ferrell said. "If we believe contacting their parents would be more helpful than writing that ticket, then we'll do that."