State Highway Safety Showcase
"Smooth Operator" Aggressive Driving Enforcement
The Smooth Operator Program is a public safety initiative, which aims to provide education, information and solutions for the problem of aggressive driving. For nearly 10 years, Maryland has partnered with Virginia and Washington, DC to combat aggressive driving. In 2006, Pennsylvania joined the partnership, producing an even broader-ranging, regional campaign. Law enforcement agencies, trauma experts, government officials and other professionals have worked together to educate motorists of the risks involved with aggressive driving and to stigmatize aggressive driving behavior on our roads.
Aggressive driving has become a major threat to the safety of motorists utilizing Maryland's roads, as well as those in surrounding states. The greater Washington DC metro area has the third-worst traffic congestion in the nation, and over the past 20 years, traffic on area roads has nearly doubled. Additionally, the Baltimore area ranks 16th in terms of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
Frustration at congestion, traffic jams, and other roadway driving irritations have lead to an increase in aggressive driving instances. Although there is no universal definition of what constitutes aggressive driving, specific behaviors targeted by the Smooth Operator Program include tailgating, speeding, unsafe lane changes, running red lights or stop signs and weaving through traffic.
Public opinion dramatically supported the efforts expended during the 2005 Smooth Operator campaign. According to the 2005 Smooth Operator Program Annual Report, "43 percent of drivers were more concerned about tailgating, speeding, rage while driving, and reckless driving" than any other types of highway behaviors. In addition, eighty percent of motorists felt that aggressive driving was more of a threat to overall public safety than terrorism.
Smooth Operator plays a primary role in aggressive driving prevention education and forms the core of Maryland's aggressive driving prevention efforts. The program uses a combination of media and enforcement to produce a dramatic impact on aggressive driving. Post-campaign research for 2005 found that the awareness of the target demographic, men age 18-34, saw an increase in the recall of Smooth Operator messaging, which jumped from 30% prior to the campaign to 55% after the campaign. Additionally, the number of people recalling the message and identifying it as an aggressive driving prevention message increased from 27% pre-campaign to 44% post-campaign. Awareness of police efforts to deter aggressive driving behaviors increased for a pre-campaign level of 30% to a post-campaign level of 67%. Awareness of the Smooth Operator message increased overall from 60% to 72% throughout the region, as opposed to 2000 when awareness was raised from 35% to 56%.
The Smooth Operator program, which was started in 1997, has expanded during the past nine years in participating law enforcement agencies and in the effectiveness of the program's public awareness and education.
Sponsoring organizations include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Maryland State Highway Administration's Highway Safety Office and Motor Carrier Division, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, the Commonwealth of Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles, the District of Columbia's Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Police Department.
- Mr. Tom Gianni
Program Advisory Section Chief and Law Enforcement Liaison
Maryland Highway Safety Office