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Police pledge to target aggressive driving this summer

June 11, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Nearly eight of 10 motorists think aggressive drivers are more dangerous than terrorists.

That's according to information provided by the Smooth Operator program, an annual law-enforcement campaign designed to discourage aggressive driving behaviors, such as speeding and swerving.

Area agencies, including the Hagerstown Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Department and Maryland State Police, are teaming up with police departments in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania and other parts of the state this summer as part of the campaign to tell aggressive drivers to cool their engines.

"I don't think there's a police department that's not busier in the summer," said Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith, who believes tempers flare as the temperatures go up.

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Smith said the police will use grant money to pay officers' 28 overtime hours to enforce the roads this summer.

Sally Rankin, information officer for Maryland courts, said 20 aggressive-driving cases were filed in Washington County courts last fiscal year.

Of five cases filed in Washington County Circuit Court, four were closed, and no one was found guilty, she said. Of 15 filed in Washington County District Court, three remained active Friday and one ticket was paid. Rankin said she could not determine how the 11 other cases were adjudicated.

Maryland State Police Sgt. David Kloos said drivers must commit three or more specific violations before they can be cited for aggressive driving. Other motorists or witnesses who saw the violations may testify in court if police didn't catch the aggressive driver in the act.

Kloos said aggressive driving is a five-point moving violation, and drivers who choose to go to court can end up paying as much as $500.

In April, troopers at the Hagerstown barrack of the Maryland State Police issued 16 citations for aggressive driving. During the same period, they wrote about 250 tickets for speeding, Kloos said.

Speeding, following too closely, running red lights and passing on the right are some of the violations that can be considered aggressive driving.

"To try to catch somebody doing all those things that would constitute aggressive driving would be pretty tough in a city environment," Smith said.

The most dangerous driving violations in Hagerstown frequently are speeding, and drinking and driving. Motorists who run red lights risk accidents that can cause serious injuries, Smith said.

Smith advised that drivers focus on getting to their destinations safely.

"What you don't want to do is a tit for tat," Smith said. "You just have to let it go and remember that you're going someplace, and your object is to get there safely."

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