Johnson and Gore address major increases in reckless driving
INDIANAPOLIS – In the face of a worsening safety crisis on our roads, State Rep. Blake Johnson (D- Indianapolis) and State Rep. Mitch Gore (D-Indianapolis) today led their Statehouse colleagues in introducing a plan to address reckless driving.
Despite a decrease in traffic due to stay-at-home orders and a shift to work-from-home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, roads are deadlier than ever. Indiana and Marion County saw drastic upticks in fatal accidents with 8.1% and 31% increases, respectively. Nationally, these increases represent the largest single-year uptick in vehicle fatalities in nearly a century. These statistics represent recent tragedies like the death of a 7-year-old girl in Johnson’s district of Irvington and the countless other Hoosiers who have lost their lives on Indiana’s roads.
Specifically, the Indianapolis legislators' plan would:
- Call on Governor Holcomb to allocate a portion of the remaining $350 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CVRF) to bolster existing public safety institutions’ efforts enforcing current traffic laws. Read more information in the below letter.
- Allowing the Indiana State Police and local agencies to apply for dollars without a match requirement to pay for overtime for officers working traffic enforcement details.
- Providing access funds to county prosecutors to ease in handling the additional workload they would likely experience.
- Introduce legislation in the 2022 session of the Indiana General Assembly that would permit cities to install traffic cameras in school zones. Municipal leaders throughout the state have expressed interest in traffic cameras, but state law currently bans cities from using them according to a 2008 attorney general opinion.
“No other preventable cause of death is as overlooked, or even as implicitly condoned as the hundreds of fatalities caused by reckless driving each year in Indiana,” Johnson said. “The General Assembly has the power to change the narrative and take specific action to hold reckless drivers accountable. By empowering cities to install traffic cameras in school zones, we can make reckless drivers think twice about speeding and thereby save lives.”
“Marion County is on a dangerous upward trajectory for fatal crashes,” Gore said. “This legislative body has a duty to keep people safe, at home and on the road. Clearly, Hoosiers and visitors to our state need a hard reset in what is expected from them while driving, and that’s what these immediate and long-term plans seek to provide.”
September 21, 2021
The Honorable Eric J. Holcomb
Governor of Indiana
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Governor Holcomb:
We write to you with serious concerns about the safety of our neighbors on Indiana’s roads and highways. As we are sure you are aware, nationwide, in 2020, traffic fatalities increased over 7% while vehicle miles travelled decreased by 420 billion miles, or about 13%. In 2020, almost 37,000 people were killed in a motor vehicle crash, the largest number since 2007. Hoosiers have not escaped this new and dangerous reality. In 2020, 813 people were killed on Indiana’s roads, an increase of over 8% from 2019.
More distressingly, in our capitol city, traffic fatalities far outpaced the national and statewide averages. 135 people were killed in Indianapolis traffic accidents in 2020, an over 30% increase from 20192. This comes as state and local law enforcement agencies across Indiana have had to reallocate resources away from traffic enforcement to handle the increase in criminal activity that we’ve seen across the country. In 2007, for example, our partners at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had around 50 officers dedicated to traffic patrols. That year, they wrote more than 37,000 tickets. While that number has gone down, we have seen a corresponding increase in collisions, injuries, and fatalities.
While the data plainly shows the seriousness of this issue, it belies the full scope of the problem. For every traffic fatality, there are over 100 accidents that cause an injury serious enough to require medical attention (over 4 million each year in the U.S.). Our already overtaxed hospitals, our insurance premiums, and most importantly, our families, are feeling the full brunt of this dramatic increase in reckless driving.
Clearly, there needs to be a hard reset in how Hoosiers and visitors to our state are expected to drive. Our understanding is that there is around $350 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CVRF) that need to be expended by the end of the 2021. We are proposing that a portion of these “use-it-or-lose-it” monies be allocated from the CVRF to help law enforcement agencies pay for overtime for officers working traffic enforcement details. We believe this money should be made available to the Indiana State Police, but also that local agencies be permitted to apply for dollars without a match requirement. Additionally, some portion of the funds should be made available to county prosecutors to ease in handling the additional workload they would likely experience.
There is recent precedent for such action. Our most recent budget appropriated American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars to body cams for the brave women and men of ISP, and created a grant program for local law enforcement agencies to purchase body cams, as well. Similarly, ARP dollars were rightfully used to provide hazard pay to our dedicated Troopers and Corrections Officers.
All data indicates that the situation on our roads is directly caused by conditions related to the pandemic. Surely, if body cams, stab vests, and hazard pay are allowable expenditures under CARES and ARP rules, a reckless driving abatement program would be, as well.
The proposal outlined in this letter is supported by the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association, the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, and prosecutors across our state. These organizations represent police executives and the brave Hoosiers that protect our communities, most of whom want to do even more to prevent this issue, but simply find themselves and their agencies lacking the resources.
We know that, like us, you take seriously your obligation to protect the lives and property of Hoosiers. We also recognize the creation of such a fund is not a simple or quick process. However, we believe that the issue is serious enough, pressing enough, and fixable enough to warrant this immediate attention. While we stand ready to assist you in any way we can, our understanding is that the appropriation of remaining CARES Act dollars is at your sole discretion.
We sincerely appreciate your consideration and would be happy to discuss this issue and our proposed solution in more detail with you or members of your staff, and representatives from the organizations listed above, in the near future.
Mitch Gore Blake Johnson
State Representative State Representative
House District 89 House District 100