Area departments put brakes on aggressive driving

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    BYRAM n State transportation officials turned to township police to help put the brakes on aggressive driving during a recent two-week period along a stretch on Route 206 through the center of town. During the last two weeks of July, Byram officers on the lookout for aggressive driving issued 134 summonses, from 6 a.m.-8 p.m., when Route 206 is at its busiest levels. The Andover Township and Newton police departments joined Byram in the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety-funded campaign along a 12-mile stretch of Route 206 through Sussex County, each adding an extra officer to regular patrols. The push resulted in 240 extra officer-hours worked and 391 summonses, including 206 in Newton and 51 in Andover Township. Sergeant Pete Zabita, a 10-year member of the Byram force, said that although aggressive driving has probably been around since the invention of the wheel, it has only recently received the attention it deserves. "Route 206 is traveled by everyone," he said. "It's the gateway to Sussex County. There are incidents when the traffic volume is heaviest during rush hour, which can tend to irritate people." Zabita said he has not seen any incidents of aggressive driving leading to physical violence between drivers, but warns that it is not uncommon. "It takes two to tango," said Zabita. "If you ignore someone and go about your business, an incident won't escalate." Zabita said that while the increased volume of traffic along Route 206 has reduced the number of accidents, it has tested the tolerance levels of many drivers who jump at the opportunity to speed, ignore traffic signals, or drive carelessly through town. While most of the offenses involved speeding or failure to observe traffic signals, unsafe lane changes and talking on cell phones, the collaborative effort led to six vehicles impounded and five arrests n three for outstanding warrants, one for driving while intoxicated, and another for fraudulent documents. Zabita said the law enforcement exercise was not about issuing additional tickets, but for providing improved safety along the roadway. "If someone is driving down the road and sees a police officer, they're going to look down at their speedometer," he said. "It forces people to pay attention." Zabita encouraged motorists who witness aggressive driving to note the vehicle license plate and report the incident to local police. A full report from the prevention project will be forwarded to the state Division of Highway Safety, which will use the information to address future safety concerns and grant applications.