Recently USA today ran an article by Mr. Larry Copeland about unmarked police cars. The implementation of the unmarked police cars is spreading across the country. The article talks about people who speed and their reactions when they see a marked police unit. The immediate reaction is to slow down and drive the speed limit. Which is the goal of law enforcement on the highway and on city streets. What everyone should know is that once that marked police car is out of view, the driver will speed back up.
In his article, he talks about speed being the deadly cycle that needs to be broken. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is costing Americans $40.4 billion dollars. In Oklahoma, we spend about $2 to $3 billion on vehicle collisions.
Now all this seems to be costly, but does this really put it in perspective for people? The average collision (without injuries) is approximately $8 to $10 thousand dollars. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, there are about 1 million vehicle crashes annually ( in Oklahoma).
If a majority of these collisions are caused by speed, wouldn’t it seem that speed enforcement should be a priority?
I have listened to the debate about marked vs. unmarked vehicles. The arguments range from out of control government to police impersonation problems. There are many arguments for and against this issue but I believe what is really the issue is that people are not interested in the government “sneaking around” in unmarked cars looking to stop people for traffic violations. I often hear people say that it is not appropriate to use government resources this way, because it is a revenue enhancement program and not a traffic safety program.
Driving a marked vehicle with the lights on top of the vehicle, everyone knows your there. Yes, it is a deterrent, but once that car is removed from that particular spot, then the vehicles will speed back up. A marked car without the lights on top got my attention one day because someone said, “I did not see you there (after they were apprehended for running a red light). Even though the two vehicles were marked on the sides identically, the fact that one did not have lights on top, did not deter the motorist from the violation. In this particular case, the motorist was looking for that light bar on top of the police vehicle and when none were visible, the driver ran the red light.
Driving an unmarked car, you will see the irresponsible driver. 911 operators often get calls about rude, aggressive or drunk drivers. They will also receive calls about distracted drivers, children who are not buckled in-car seats and even the driver who has a lead foot and accelerates rapidly from the traffic light. In an unmarked car, you will see this and realize that drivers will do almost anything when a marked police unit is not there.
When that vehicles passes the unmarked police car at 63 in a 40 mph speed zone, you know that driver is not concerned about his driving habits because he does not see a police car. But having those unmarked vehicles in use, police are getting the opportunity to see the erratic driving behaviors. It is backing up what the citizens are seeing on their own when a marked police vehicle is no where in sight.
I see the need for the use of unmarked police vehicles and I support the practice. If someone is concerned that it is not a police car, there are several options. First option is to turn on your flashers and drive to a populated place so people can see what is happening. Another option is calling the police and asking the dispatcher if an officer is pulling you over.
I can guarantee that if you keep driving and ignore the flashing lights, you will soon discover that it may be a police officer attempting to stop you. The officer is going to radio in and say the vehicle is not stopping and other officers are going to respond. Those officers will be in a marked police vehicles.
Police departments can also put policies in place to ensure that citizens know they are getting stopped by an unmarked police unit. Officers can be required to identify themselves as they walk up to the car. Officers should make sure that they understand that someone is going to question their credentials. If they are questioned, the officer should be patient to allow the citizen the time to become comfortable with the traffic stop. Now this does not mean that the officer should be ignored or treated badly, but he or she should be patient. In any police situation, the officers will not tolerate abuse, refusal to comply, or any other act that would indicate that the citizen is not going to cooperate.
So if you want to experience a life time of learning, you should consider riding in an unmarked police vehicle. Contact you local department and see fi they have an unmarked program. Complete the necessary forms and volunteer to ride with an officer in an unmarked police unit.
If you do, you just might have an experience of a life time.