Sheriff cracks down on speeding


Finger Lakes Times

FAYETTE - You may want to think twice about speeding in Seneca County.

Lt. Chuck Maleski of the Seneca County Sheriff's Office spoke at Thursday's Town Board meeting about a speed monitoring program aimed at reducing the number of fatal accidents in the county.

The program, called the Selective Traffic Enforcement Project, is a collaboration of Gov. George Pataki's Traffic Safety Committee, the Seneca County Traffic Safety Board and the Seneca County Sheriff's Office.

Seneca County was granted $5,000 in state funding last November, and the program began in April, Maleski said. Six neighboring counties - including Ontario, Wayne and Yates - have launched similar efforts.

Maleski's presentation included a number of statistics that supported the need for a speed monitoring program. He said a study done in 2005 by the National Center for Statistical Analysis showed there are 42 percent more fatal vehicular crashes in the state's rural areas than in urban areas, even though there are fewer roads. Maleski said speed, lack of seat belt use and road type are the biggest factors.

Maleski pointed out that a lot of the roads in the town have a 55 mph speed limit and many have blind intersections and do not have shoulders.

"Roads out here are not made for speed," Maleski said.

The study showed about 70 percent of all fatal crashes in New York occur on roads where the speed limit is 55 mph or higher, and nearly 50 percent involve people who were not wearing seat belts.

The study showed Seneca County averaged more severe accidents per square mile than the state as a whole.

The last three fatal accidents the sheriff's office has dealt with were attributed to speed and failure to yield the right of way, Maleski said, adding that the STEP program is designed to target aggressive drivers.

The initiative includes talking to municipalities and public groups to figure out where the problem areas are. It also calls for counties to share ideas with each other on how to best tackle aggressive driving.

"The whole idea is to come up with what works best because funds are limited," Maleski said.

Sheriff's deputies are equipped with Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging equipment to spot speeders. The STEP patrols, or "wolf packs" as Maleski referred to them, consist of an unmarked police vehicle positioned off the road reading vehicle speeds and a small group of police vehicles in a nearby location. If the unmarked officer detects a speeder, the officer will alert the other officers, who will then charge the speeder. Single patrol cars may also be used.

"When I put the 'wolf pack' out in your town, you will get phone calls," Maleski told to the board.

Drivers are usually given a 12 mph leeway by sheriff's deputies when it comes to exceeding the speed limit, but deputies are given discretion and their tolerance can be lower, Maleski said.

"[Aggressive driving] is something that residents in the area are concerned about," Town Supervisor Ed Barto said, adding that he contacted Maleski to find out how the town could get involved.

Maleski told the board and residents in attendance to let the sheriff's office know where the problem areas are. Residents could contact board members or call the sheriff's office to report areas of concern.

For more information on the STEP patrol or to report a problem area, contact Lt. Chuck Maleski at 539-9241 or (607) 869-3721.