Helping identify speeders

In neighborhoods, residents doing their part for traffic safety


To combat the high volume of speeders through residential areas, Howard County police are sharing some of the responsibility for identifying those speeders with the people they believe know those areas best: the residents.

Through the department's Speed Monitoring and Radar Team (SMART) program, citizens are getting the opportunity to wield radar guns and record tag numbers in an effort to slow speeders and make their neighborhoods safer.

Howard County police officials began the program in 1998, after seeing the success of the SMART program in Montgomery County.

Community action

"It is a community response to a community program so that they can address the problem before the police are involved," said Howard County police Officer Brandon Justice who taught the program two years ago.

According to an analysis released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June, 32 percent of all traffic-related fatalities were caused by speeding, and fatalities on local roads and in rural communities have significantly increased.

The purpose of the SMART program "is to use peer pressure to solve the problem," Justice said. "If you are driving down the road and you see your neighbor holding a [radar] unit you are less likely to go over the speed limit."

Justice said that participating residents stand near speed-limit signs with the radar guns.

"It takes about an hour and a half to learn how to use the radar unit," Justice said. "We have set classes where people can come and learn how to use it and what they should do."

Letters written

Participants turn in tag numbers of speeders to police, who write letters to car owners alerting them to the violation.

"Sometimes kids are speeding in their parents' car, and the parents don't even know about it," Justice said. He added that if an area has a high volume of speeding, additional officers could be deployed to aid enforcement.

Shakima Bates said she has seen cars speeding through residential areas, and she would like to help slow the traffic to protect children who live in the neighborhoods.

"Everyday you see cars zooming through these neighborhoods and sometimes not even stopping at the stop sign," Bates said. "It's important that we take back our neighborhoods, because if we don't, who will?"

Justice said that the program, which has enrolled almost 50 residents in Ellicott City and North Laurel, works better when there is a continued commitment by the community.

Warmer months

"In the warmer months, residents check out the radar units about twice a month," Justice said adding that residents are able to keep the device for up to a week. "The more often you are signing it out, it becomes more of a fixed program in your community. It works better than people who sign it out for a one-time shot. "

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