The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award
The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke
2007 Winner: Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.'s Smooth Operator Program
The Mid-Atlantic area has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. This congestion breeds frustration-and aggressive driving behavior that plays a part in thousands of crashes, deaths and injuries in the region every year.
To combat this behavior, a task force of law enforcement, government officials, trauma experts and others created, developed and implemented the Smooth Operator Program, a unique public safety initiative that provides education, information and solutions for the problem of aggressive driving. The participants work together to educate motorists on the risks involved with aggressive driving and to stigmatize aggressive driving behavior on our roads.
Smooth Operator responds to aggressive drivers through news media efforts, a public education and awareness campaign and increased law enforcement and engineering activities. The program also has a significant evaluation component.
In Smooth Operator today, more than 100 law enforcement agencies from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and now Pennsylvania coordinate their efforts to target aggressive drivers, conducting enforcement "waves" over a fourmonth period. In 2006, they issued more than 364,000 citations and warnings for aggressive driving behaviors. Since 1997, more than 1.5 million citations have been issued to aggressive drivers.
The 2006 Smooth Operator Public Education Campaign was aimed primarily at adult male drivers aged 18 to 34, using the slogan, "I'm An Aggressive Driver. I'm Going To Stop." Since almost all drivers act aggressively at times, the 2006 campaign wanted to make drivers recognize their aggressive driving actions and to empower them with a message to change. The campaign used alternate or "new" media opportunities, including podcasts, streaming video downloads and Internet messages, which were especially effective in reaching the target audience, resulting in over 62,000 online ad views and over 40,000 visits to the Smooth Operator website (www.smoothoperatorprogram.com).
The campaign was evaluated through pre- and post-surveys to measure the change in awareness and attitudes as well as driving behavior. Messages on aggressive driving and speeding showed a 35 percent increase in driver awareness during the September period among target audience drivers between ages 18 and 34.
After the four month enforcement waves, fewer motorists reported they drove aggressively, cut in front of another car, ran a stop light or drove over the speed limit of 55 mph by 15 mph or more. This improvement is due, in large part, to the comprehensive nature of the campaign, which attempts to change driver behavior with an enhanced awareness of the problem through a media campaign, along with increased enforcement.
The Smooth Operator Program has successfully increased the awareness of aggressive driving behaviors and shown a continued ability to resonate with residents. The program is a model for other states wishing to fight the problem of aggressive driving.
For more information, visit www.smoothoperatorprogram.com.