RAVE comes to area; Kansas Highway Patrol to crack down on aggressive and impaired drivers

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Kansas Highway Patrol plans to have some troopers in Fort Scott next week in an effort to crack down on aggressive and impaired drivers.

KHP plans to conduct a special enforcement on Friday, Dec. 14, called Roving Aggressive Violation Enforcement -- or RAVE -- an initiative aimed at reducing aggressive driving and removing drivers operating vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol from public roadways.

"We'll go after hazardous violations and aggressive driving," KHP Lt. Mike Thweatt said. "Our ultimate goal is to reduce DUI-involved accidents and DUI driving. We'll also look at seat belts and the whole gamut of traffic enforcement. We're mainly after individuals driving under the influence; it's one of our top priorities."

Thweatt said the enforcement is "in the planning stages." The number of troopers who will participate "depends on how many troopers we have." They will stop motorists if they witness any violations such as impaired or reckless driving.

"We have done three of these since October," Thweatt said. "We'll have anywhere from four to six (troopers) involved in this. It's a voluntary assignment for troopers. They'll be doing extra patrols."

The goal of the enforcement is to encourage compliance with the seat belt and hazardous moving violations, along with removing drivers who violate alcohol or drugs statutes, a news release said.

Under the program, KHP selects different counties to visit throughout the month. Thweatt said the enforcement usually begins about midnight and continues through about 4 a.m. "or later."

"We're targeting late-night accidents that occur from drivers drinking alcohol and drivers leaving bars," he said.

Thweatt said local city and county law enforcement are invited to participate in the effort with KHP troopers.

"Some do, some don't," he said. "We get a real good reception from Fort Scott police when we do it. We also get support from the sheriff's office."

Thweatt said while the patrol mainly targets impaired drivers during these enforcements, a majority of the arrests made involve other infractions.

He said it is difficult to pinpoint the most common violation he has seen in his 20-plus year career with the patrol.

"We have made some DUI arrests," he said. "A majority are non-DUI drivers. We stop (drivers) for a lot of different violations."

Fines for violations range from $10 for a seat belt infraction to the more expensive penalties for driving while intoxicated. With the exception of seat belt violations, most offenses come with $98 in court costs, as well as the fine, Thweatt said.

"A majority of the fines are from $35 to $45," he said. "There are a few that are more than that. Speeding fines are the $98 plus how many miles per hour they are going over the speed limit."

Thweatt said fines for DUI offenses vary and are determined by local courts.

"I know they're expensive," he said.

KHP Lt. Josh Kellerman said he has worked the enforcements in the past and there is typically a lot of activity during the enforcement periods.

"Normally, we stay very active with stopping cars and violations," he said. "It's not the night-before-Thanksgiving busy, but we stay very active."

Kellerman said KHP conducted five similar enforcements this past spring and six this summer in other nearby counties in which troopers made 17 DUI arrests and stopped 301 cars.

The RAVE program is "most definitely" effective and has made an impact by cutting down the number of aggressive and impaired drivers, even though KHP cannot completely eliminate the problem, Kellerman said.

"Last year, we had 182 total DUI arrests statewide," he said. "Anytime we can get out there and make additional DUI arrests on top of the ones we already make, that's just benefiting everybody."

KHP has conducted three enforcements -- one a month -- in the Southeast Kansas region since October and seven additional DUI arrests were made.

"It's a great program," Kellerman said. "In 2011, we had over 200 DUI arrests. So between the last two years, there have been over 400 DUI arrests with that program. We do our best to get them off the road and make the roads a little bit safer."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says aggressive driving is when a driver deliberately behaves in a manner that increases the risk of an accident. In some instances, an aggressive driver may drive so recklessly they could injure or kill another driver.

NHTSA also says aggressive driving is a progression of unlawful actions such as speeding, excessive lane changing, improper passing and tailgating.