Summit speakers encouraged safety professionals
Many professions are needed to respond to a single motor vehicle crash including law enforcement, the fire department, emergency medical services, communication personnel and even transportation department workers for closing highways if necessary.
Each incident sets in motion a team response.
More than 200 law enforcement and highway safety professionals learned Tuesday how the “One Team” approach to a motor vehicle crash can be just as effective addressing larger challenges like Idaho’s Towards Zero Deaths goal of no one dying on an Idaho highway. Operating a safe transportation is one of the department's primary Strategic Plan goals.
Keynote speakers Mark Neil and Kristen Shea told attendees at ITD’s 2012 Highway Safety Summit that “teams come from many places, so accept many faces” and that all team contributions should be respected. Neil and Shea work as senior attorneys at the National District Attorney Association’s National Traffic Law Center in Alexandria, Va. Their talk was titled “One Team Approach to Traffic Safety.”
Working together to improve outcomes may begin with as little as just sitting down and talking. “By knowing what each team member, or role, brings to the table, we can help each other,” Neil said.
“Need aerial photos of a crash scene and don’t have aircraft? Try talking with the fire department and using their ladder truck,” he suggested.
The more that groups are brought together as a team to pursue common goals, the more successful is the possibility for broad change.
Shea challenged conference attendees to “attend a breakout session not normally attended, make contact with someone not in your profession and set a goal for yourself as to how you will help affect change and contribute to that zero goal.”
Jared Olson, Idaho’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP), gave an entertaining case law update in the form of game show questions such as those posed in “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”
“Are You Smarter Than a Defense Lawyer” provided categories like “mmm doughnuts” and “Staring Contest” which led to discussions about how different impaired driving citations and arrests are currently being challenged.
One challenge involved chocolate doughnuts leading to an inaccurate Blood Alcohol Content reading equal to four beers. While the combination of yeast and sugars in chocolate doughnuts might contribute to a false reading, it would require a person to eat 250 in one setting for any possibility of that to occur.
“Staring Contest” involved the many challenges to the 15-minute observation period ensuring that a suspected impaired driver does not belch, burp or vomit for 15 minutes prior to administering a breathalyzer test.
Sgt. Robert Rausch, with Idaho State Police, offered a session examining what’s new with the latest designer drugs such as Spice, Bath Salts and others. Forensic Lab Manager Anne Nord reviewed toxicology services offered by ISP and the limitations.
Shea, the summit’s other keynote speaker, helped attendees understand highway safety issues related to commercial motor vehicles and commercial driver licenses. Prosecutors and patrol officers often receive little or no training about those issues.
“Establishing Safe and Realistic Speed Limits” discussed how advancements in motor vehicle technology and enhanced roadway design have rendered the vast majority of speed limits incorrect across the country.
First Lt. Thad Peterson, with Michigan State Police, talked about how incorrect speed limits put motorists, police officers and traffic safety professionals in a difficult position. It seems that in many cases, the safest speed on any given stretch of road may be significantly above the posted speed limit.
Another breakout session described the elements of evaluation, classification and prerequisites for Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (A-RIDE) and Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) programs.
The most popular session, “Distracted Driving – There’s a new law in town,” required a change in location to accommodate the number of interested participants. A panel of experts reviewed Idaho’s new texting and driving law, which will go into effect July 1, and talked about how law enforcement might enforce the new law.
“Before, we looked for hands texting while resting on a steering wheel,” explained Sgt. John Gonzales with the Meridian Police Department. “Now we look for heads and hands down.”
Patrol officers were advised to note how a phone is positioned – horizontal or vertical – and detail how long ahead is down and how far that vehicle traveled.
Citing Meridian’s experience with its city ordinance banning testing while driving, Gonzales told summit attendees that they would feel frustrated in the beginning.
“Just one in ten stops led to a citation,” Gonzales said. “But we looked at it as getting to talk to with ten people about this safety issue for every ticket written.”
Photos: Highway Safety Manager Brent Jennings welcomed police officers and highway safety professionals to the 2012 Highway Safety Summit at the Boise Centre(top); TSRP Jared Olson has some fun with ISP Sgt. Sam Ketchum during the mock game show “Are You Smarter Than a District Attorney?” (middle); Officers and highway safety professionals listen closely at a breakout session (bottom).