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3/13/2013
Washington State Troopers ride with truckers to catch unsafe drivers
By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer

For cops and truckers in Washington state, going on a ride-along is taking on a whole new meaning.

Members of the Washington State Patrol will be riding shotgun in big rigs, looking to crack down on aggressive drivers as part of an enforcement program called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT). The enforcement period runs March 11-15 on interstates and state routes in King County.

“It’s an ongoing challenge to get people to understand that they need to give these trucks a lot of space,” said Dan Coon, public information officer for the state patrol. “We’re not just looking at cars; we’re also looking for other truck drivers who are driving aggressively.”

Coon said a trooper is stationed in the cab of a truck acting as a spotter while other troopers either in front or shadowing behind are in a position where they can respond to a violation.

“If a car cuts them off, they have radios or cellphones to call ahead and let the other trooper know,” he said. “It’s no different than driving unmarked cars. I also think for the troopers themselves, being up in the truck cab really gives them a bit of an eye-opening on what it is to be a truck driver traveling some of our busy roads.”

The troopers partner with members of the Washington Trucking Association for the ride-alongs and take advantage of a federal grant to compensate the truckers for their time and mileage.

Coon said the agency has run similar enforcement campaigns in September and December of 2012. The September sting resulted in 280 tickets issued and 18 commercial vehicle inspections. The December campaign netted 286 car drivers and 23 commercial vehicle drivers citations for aggressive driving.

“This is a tactic we’ve used a number of other times over the last year,” he said. One of the ways we’ve gained success is, number one, we’ve had success in spotting folks who are driving around the trucks. Number two, we’ve had success in buy-in from the trucking associations by working with them to show that we are just as concerned about truck safety by getting up in the cabs.”

The enforcement patrols will set up along Interstate 5 from Seattle to Federal Way; Interstate 90 from Seattle to North Bend; Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Tukwila; as well as state routes 18 and 167. Coon said the area of enforcement covers Puget Sound from Seattle to Tacoma, and will capture traffic to and from the region’s major shipping hubs and the Canadian border.

“We’re doing this specifically in the area where we’ve seen the majority of our semi collisions,” he said.

Prior to the enforcement program, Coon said the area had 30 collisions with trucks in the first quarter of 2012; 41 collisions in the second quarter, and 43 collisions in third quarter.

“Once we started doing the emphasis, we saw it drop to 37 in quarter four; then in first quarter 2013 we saw it drop to 24 collisions,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in two things. Number one, in the number of contacts with drivers, but on the law enforcement side, a number of additional crimes -- stolen vehicles, a number of folks who have suspended licenses. It’s also getting people who shouldn’t be on the road, off the road.”

Coon said the most important safety tip for drivers to remember is “if a car is going up against a truck, the car is going to lose.”

“It really comes down to just give them more space,” he said. “Don’t cut them off, and understand that the trucks cannot stop like you can.”

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