Speed-limit effort accelerates highway ticketing


The Sun incorrectly reported March 1 that state officials hoped to expand a stepped-up speed enforcement effort, called "Clickit and Ticket," statewide. In fact, "Clickit and Ticket" has been a statewide program since it began a year ago. Officials hope to expand statewide "Project Intercept," an education program for teen-age drivers convicted of driving offenses now operating in several counties.

The Sun regrets the error.

An accelerated speed-limit enforcement program, called "Clickit and Ticket," helped Maryland State Police nab more than 29,000 additional lead-footed motorists last year, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

And Col. Elmer H. Tippett, state police superintendent, vowed ,, there would be no letup in the push to keep the pedals off the metal.

"Yes, we are making progress in reducing speeds. However, we cannot allow our achievements to be diminished by an easing of our efforts," said Colonel Tippett, speaking at a meeting in Ellicott City of the Metropolitan Baltimore Public Safety Media Relations Council.

"Clickit and Ticket," launched in March 1990, uses federal grant money to pay the overtime needed to put more than 1,000 extra troopers, their radar units and ticket books on state highways.

In 1990, troopers wrote 191,276 tickets for exceeding the 55-mph limit, compared to 162,132 tickets in 1989. Almost all of the increase, state police said, probably resultedfrom the first nine months of the new enforcement program.

"Our goal was not to see how many traffic stops we could make or how many tickets we could issue," Colonel Tippett said. "Our goal was to see how many lives we could save, how many speed-related collisions could be avoided."

Enforcement efforts led to an 11 percent decline in speed-relatedcrashes on 55-mph highways, he said, and an overall 6.3 percent decline in speed-related collisions statewide. He credited "Clickit" with holding speed-related deaths to about 300 last year, lower than the two prior years.

Another goal of the program was to keep at least 50 percent of Maryland drivers from exceeding the 55-mph speed limit. The state barely managed to do that for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 1989, and avoided a suspension of federal highway aid.

State police spokesman Chuck Jackson said he could not estimate how much extra revenue the "Clickit" program has generated. "It wasnever intended to be, in our opinion, a program to raise money," he said.

The "Clickit" effort, Colonel Tippitt said, will be bolstered by several new highway safety efforts in the coming year, including "Project Intercept," which is designed to help reduce the high accident rates among teen-agers.

Under "Project Intercept," District Court judges are asked to give speeders between the ages of 16 and 19, who live in the county where they were stopped, the choice of either paying the fine and having points added to their licenses or attending a two-hour safety program conducted by the state police.

The program -- now operating in Harford, Cecil, Queen Anne's, Talbot and Charles counties -- is modeled on an effort launched last year by the Bel Air barracks.

Trooper Michael J. Mullin, who has taught the safety course to 531 Harford teens, said when he first approached the Harford County District Court about the program, one judge asked why he had not proposed the idea before. "Where have you been?" the judge asked.

Police eventually hope to expand "Clickit and Ticket" statewide.

News of the program's apparent success drew no cheers yesterday from supporters of a bill pending in the General Assembly to raise the speed limit on rural stretches of interstate highways to 65 mph. There are about 150 miles of such road, all of it in central and western Maryland.

"Interstate highways . . . are our safest roads. Very few of the fatalities that occur on them are speed-related," said Giffen Nickol, spokesman for the state chapter of the National Motorists Association, a group opposed to the 55-mph speed limit. "And in my opinion, it is a misapplication of police resources to concentrate so much attention on speed-related violations."

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