TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Cops target aggressive drivers on 290
By Daniel Pye/
The Tonawanda News

If you drive fast and don’t signal when you change lanes, stay off the Youngmann Expressway this summer.

Town of Tonawanda police, through a state grant program, will be cracking down on aggressive and unsafe driving habits throughout the summer. Grant money will be used to pay overtime for officers devoting all their time to making stops for traffic violations, said Lt. Timothy Waring.

“A normal guy on patrol has to answer calls for service, and with the call volume these days, there’s not enough time to focus on some traffic enforcement issues,” he said. “With these details, that’s all he’s doing. The grant lets us dedicate patrols strictly to traffic enforcement.”

The detail will target multiple traffic violations, including speeding, following too closely, changing lanes unsafely, failing to yield right-of-way and ignoring traffic control devices. These behaviors cause thousands of injuries each year and contribute to growing problems of hazardous traffic conditions, said Alan Taylor, regional director of the New York State Department of Transportation.

“Aggressive driving behaviors endanger motorists and can easily escalate into incidents of road rage,” Taylor said. “The targeted enforcement program, which is aimed at reducing these behaviors, is important in our efforts to have our state highways operate as safely as possible.”

The grant, called the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program or STEP, and the Buckle Up New York grant come from the governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. Most departments take advantage of the statewide projects and they are so productive that the town is asking for more funding in the next fiscal year, Waring said.

“When we first started the seat belt details, you’d see 100 tickets in a five- to six-hour period,” Waring said. “We get less than half that number today and our compliance rate is close to 90 percent.”

The ultimate goal is to educate the public on how safe driving habits are a win for everyone. Although the town might see a slight increase in revenue through the extra tickets, making money isn’t a big concern for the project, Waring said.

“This is about reducing the number of accidents and cutting down on injuries,” he said. “If we better educate the public, they’ll see the rewards in that they’re less likely to get into an accident, less likely to be hurt if they are in an accident and might see their insurance costs go down as a result.”