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ISP doesn't need unmarked traffic patrol vehicles

ISP doesn't need unmarked traffic patrol vehicles

Fred Birnbaum
December 11, 2015

The Idaho State Police have proposed a change to Idaho Code which would allow them to use unmarked vehicles for traffic enforcement.  The reason provided in its legislative statement of purpose: “to address the issue of dangerous driving behaviors that are resulting in an increase of fatalities and injuries on Idaho’s highways, interstates, and roadways.”

Don’t be easily convinced. The Idaho Transportation Department maintains a website that details highway safety statistics. Whether you review those as part of a five-year rolling average or in single-year increments, the trend is clear: highway fatality rates are down in Idaho.

If we go back 25 years and compare calendar year 1990 to 2014, we see that fatality rates are down 54 percent. The rates have dropped from 2.48 deaths per 100-million vehicle miles traveled in 1990 to 1.15 in 2014. If we use the five-year rolling-average method and compare the oldest and newest data, 2002-2006 to 2010-2014, the rates are down 34 percent. Today, Idaho’s highways are safer than they’ve ever been.

In this day and age, does it really make sense to use fully unmarked cars to pull people over for traffic infractions? The State Police already have rolling radar units, motorcycles, and cars without light-bars. Moreover, current state statute gives the State Police the ability to use unmarked vehicles “for confidential investigations.”

If safety is not the reason, what is the real purpose of this proposed legislation? Perhaps the State Police just want another tool in their arsenal, so to speak. Or, is this about increasing citations -- and thus revenue? If so, that is not a good way to build trust with the public.

The proposed legislation is a solution in a search of a problem. Idaho does not need it.


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