Traffic safety grant awarded to Toledo PoliceWritten by Tom Konecny | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Traffic patrols will soon be increased through an annual grant the Toledo Police Department (TPD) counts on nearly every year.
TPD was recently awarded $73,238.55 in federal traffic safety funding by the Ohio Criminal Justice Services and the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, all via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The department has received the grant each of the past 10 years and use it to support 1,100 hours of overtime for patrolling roads and streets within Toledo city limits. It is typically the only grant TPD receives all year.
“Speeding is almost half of our fatal accidents,” said TPD Lt. Jeff Sulewski, commander of the traffic section.
One of the qualifications to receive the grant is that Toledo must experience at least two traffic fatalities within a two-year period. TPD typically reports about 20 such fatalities every year, and the city is at 16 to date this year. While speed is the No. 1 cause of death, alcohol-related accidents are a close second, Sulewski said.
“You combine a couple of those and it just isn’t going to work,” he said.
Distracted driving through texting or cellphone use is harder to prove, but officers know it is a factor as well.
“You can’t look down and concentrate on something, and read something,” Sulewski said. “Your attention is totally off from what the car is doing.”
Sulewski said TPD patrol areas are flexible and may change, but right now the intended focus is on Alexis and Byrne roads, which have been problem areas in the past. They also plan to look at Reynolds Road and I-475. The grant starts in October and runs through September 2015.
“As we’re into it starting in October and as the year progresses, if we see a problem area we may concentrate officers in those areas,” he said.
The grant involves working in collaboration with other local law enforcement agencies to ensure traffic safety.
“There’s a lot of sharing of information,” Sulewski said.
“It’s one of those things in working with crashes, if they’re getting overloaded, then one of our units will go over and help,” said Lt. William Bowers, Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Bowers mentioned the Anthony Wayne Trail as one area consistently watched.
“In the last two years, the Anthony Wayne Trail has been the No. 1 spot for impaired drivers,” Bowers said.
The grant covers almost all the salaries and a small percentage of benefits for the officers involved, so it does not cost the city or taxpayers anything to have the officer working. Sulewski points out the extra enforcement is “win-win” because the city can collect fines that come with traffic stops.
Like any grant, there is an application process and no certainty that it will be awarded.
“If you don’t get it, it’s 1,100 hours of overtime that wouldn’t be worked,” Sulewski said.
In the meantime, TPD will continue doing everything in its power to keep roadways safe, knowing not all behavior can be influenced.
“We’ve had some spike years, we’ve had some low years,” Sulewski said. “We had one year [fatalities] spiked up into the 30s and we couldn’t really explain it. It was just a bad year. Last year we had seven or eight motorcycle fatalities. It’s a lot of things you can’t control. We’re doing enforcement and getting the word out. This year, we’re doing good.”