Austin's 'secret police' track aggressive drivers

| 8/7/2002

Police in Austin, TX, have gone undercover to track aggressive drivers. The new approach to hunting aggressive drivers is intended to curb growing safety concerns on area roadways that police say are clogged with drivers with short tempers, tight schedules and bad manners.

The undercover aggressive driving prevention program puts plainclothes police officers in unmarked cars to monitor traffic on the area's major highways. The officers look for speeding, tailgating and unsafe lane changes, then alert officers in marked cars to pull over the violators.

Since the program began July 8, Austin police reportedly have issued more than 6,200 traffic citations; more than half were for moving violations. Despite the enforcement push, seven fatal wrecks have occurred in the area this month, including two allegedly involving racing motorists. Three fatalities this past weekend raised the death toll on Austin roads to 51 this year.

The Texas Department of Public Safety two months ago expanded its undercover traffic patrol program around San Antonio to include New Braunfels and the major roads around Austin, including U.S. 290 and U.S. 183. Like Austin's program, the agency uses officers in unmarked vehicles to watch for aggressive drivers and alert troopers in marked cars. Unlike Austin, all of the state's unmarked cars are equipped with video cameras and radar guns.

The DPS runs the undercover operation twice a month and has jurisdiction over all the state's highways, although it leaves areas in Central Austin, such as I-35 and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), to local enforcement.