Image of a Traffic Light


NHTSA People Saving People

Technology Transfer Series

Number 268 March 2002


In a national telephone survey conducted by NHTSA in 1997, two-thirds of drivers said that unsafe driving actions by other people were major threats to themselves and their families (see Traffic Techs 186 & 187, Jan 1999). On March 30, 1999, the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin launched a six month aggressive driving enforcement campaign called Aggression Suppression to combine intensified general and targeted enforcement with efforts to educate the public about the dangers of aggressive driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided a grant that included time to gather baseline data, develop a publicity plan, schedule enforcement activities, and conduct process and outcome evaluations. Preusser Research Group conducted the evaluation under contract with the City of Milwaukee Police Department funded by the NHTSA grant.

Targeting Aggressive Driving Behaviors
The Aggression Suppression program targeted specific traffic offenses associated with aggressive driving and presented a series of eight public awareness campaigns, each three weeks long, to gather earned media coverage by television, radio, and newspapers. Earned media is news coverage "earned" by making news.

8 Aggressive Driving Public Awareness Campaigns in Milwaukee

Space Patrol: Police will pay special attention to drivers not leaving enough space between vehicles, tailgating.
Angel Patrol: Police will look for drivers driving faster than their guardian angel can fly over the posted speed limit.
Kindergarten Patrol: Police will watch for drivers not using their flashers or turn signals when turning or switching lanes. Flasher Patrol: Police will watch for drivers not using their flashers or turn signals when turning or switching lanes.
Courtesy Patrol: Police will pay particular attention to discourteous drivers who think "me first" and fail to yield the right-of-way.
Rude Attitude Patrol: (a.k.a. Bird Watchers Patrol): Police will watch for drivers who have lost personal control, yelling, beeping, flashing lights, giving gestures, and tailgating.
Basket Patrol: Police will look for drivers who like to weave, those who cut in and out, and speeding as they weave their way through traffic. Time Management Patrol: Police will watch for those people who don't manage time well and speed to try to make up for it.

........including 2 Congestion Relief Measures
Gridlock Enforcement:
On April 5, officers began to target motorists who stopped in the intersection during the green light or entered after the light had turned yellow or red.
Ramp Meter Enforcement: The next week targeted drivers who failed to stop for a red light at a ramp meter or who used the car pool lane when driving alone.

20 Enforcement Agencies Participated
All 20 enforcement agencies in the City and County participated. The City of Milwaukee Police Department patrolled Milwaukee's city streets and the Milwaukee County Office of the Sheriff patrolled freeways and interstates. Wauwatosa, Glendale, and West Allis increased special enforcement through funding provided by the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation Safety and the surrounding 15 suburban cities participated as well.

Enforcement Strategies

Target Locations and Times. Using historical crash data, Milwaukee targeted high crash intersections and locations. Each of the intersections and locations had at least 35 crashes related to aggressive driving in the previous three years.

In-car Video Cameras
These cameras were mounted in the front and rear of unmarked and marked vehicles.

Unconventional Patrol Vehicles
The City used unconventional vehicles including a Cadillac, an older model Toyota, a motorcycle, and a mini van. An officer following on motorcycle made the traffic stops.

Enforcement at Intersections
Officers in plain clothes at intersections in the City radioed information on red light-running violators to motorcycle officers waiting in downstream traffic. They also apprehended drivers stopped in intersections during Gridlock patrols.

Laser Speed Detection Devices:
Both City and Sheriff officers used laser devices to detect speeders.

Distance Between Cars Technology
Officers tested lasers equipped with the technology to measure the distance between cars, but these data were not used to write citations.

Magnetic Vehicle Signs
These Aggressive Driving Patrol signs were put on the rear of patrol vehicles whenever a traffic stop was made to alert passing motorists that a driver had been apprehended for an aggressive driving violation.

Electronic Display Boards to Show Speed
These signs flash a motorist's current speed.

Red Light Running Decreases
At targeted intersections, red light running decreased from 6.5 % before the program to 4.9 % during the enforcement program. It increased at the comparison intersections from 2.95 to 12.7%.

Crashes Decline 12.3 % in Target Corridors
The table below shows that the level of crashes declined significantly in the City and the reductions were greater on the roadway corridors targeted by special enforcement than on comparison. Similar patterns were found for multiple vehicle crashes and for crashes occurring at intersections.

Police Reported Crashes

1998 1999 % Change
Personal Injury or Fatality 2,915 2,723 - 6.6%
Total Crashes 8,632 8,217 - 4.8%

Target Corridors

Personal Injury or Fatality 372 330 -11.3%
Total Crashes 902 791 -12.3%

Comparison Corridors
Personal Injury or Fatality 245 242 - 1.2%
Total Crashes 648 634 - 2.2%

Motorists Self Reports Mixed
Surveys conducted at the Division of Motor Vehicles while drivers were waiting for their photograph to be developed before, during, and after the program found an already high level of perceived strictness for traffic laws and this did not change much. Increases in awareness were found for the themes of Rude Attitude, Courtesy, and Space Patrols, and the State's concurrent "Let it Ride" campaign.


For a copy of Evaluation of the Aggression Suppression Program in Milwaukee Wisconsin (38 pages), write to the Office of Research and Traffic Records, NHTSA, NTS-31, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC, 20590, or send a fax to (202) 366-7096. Joe Ann O'Hara was the contract manager for this project.

U.S. Department
of Transportation
National Highway
Traffic Safety

400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590

Traffic Tech is a publication to disseminate information about traffic safety programs, including evaluations, innovative programs, and new publications. Feel free to copy it as you wish.

If you would like to receive a copy contact:

Linda Cosgrove, Ph.D., Editor, Evaluation Staff
Traffic Safety Programs
fax (202) 366-7096


S.W., Washington, DC, 20590, or send a fax to (202) 366-7096. Joe Ann O'Hara was the contract manager for this project.