Left to right: Craig Floyd, Under Sheriff Tom Lopez, Captain Larry Cecchitinni and Denise O’Donnell.
2015 Officer Traffic Safety Award Winner
After Captain Larry Cecchettini attended a P.O.S.T. “Safe Driving Symposium” in October 2012 which stressed the tenets of the Below 100 initiative, the Yolo County (CA) Sheriff’s Office embarked on a pioneering effort to improve traffic safety within the 240-member agency. Leveraging data from the department’s existing dashboard camera system that sends an “activation” whenever the vehicle exceeds 90 MPH, the department learned that there had been 616 instances of deputies exceeding 90 MPH in the most recent 12-month period. They also learned that department crashes during the past 10 years had injured, on average, 1.5 deputies per year, forcing two deputies into early retirement. The financial cost for the same period exceeded $1 million in claims, damages, and legal fees.
In an effort to slow their deputies down, the agency began to monitor and address the excessive speed activations. In the three months following implementation of the program, unjustified speed activations dropped to 39 high-speed activations and half of the deputies dropped their activations to zero. The program recognized deputies who were in compliance operating their vehicles in a safe manner and rewarded them with certificates and department challenge coins. Those deputies who continued to record unjustified activations were issued memorandums of counseling in an effort to bring them into compliance.
Applying tenets from the Below 100 and the speed monitoring programs, the agency reduced unjustified speed activations by 91% in the first year and 94% in the second year (compared to pre-training activation levels). Since beginning the traffic program, there have been zero on-duty, at fault crashes by department personnel.
The agency uses both materials provided by Below 100, and internally created materials that showcase their own department’s crash statistics, and videos of officer-involved crashes from the agency’s dashboard cameras. The department also created promotional posters, including one that shows the faces of two young sisters, their crushed vehicle, and a wrecked patrol car belonging to the trooper who caused the crash. The trooper was driving in excess of 125 MPH while simultaneously operating an MDC and cell phone. Unfortunately, the sisters were killed.
In addition to training, the agency now mandates that deputies record an audible justification for exceeding 90 MPH threshold (the department does acknowledge that there are justifiable circumstances). The Patrol Lieutenants are required to review each speed activation monthly, in order to address concerns or violations of the policy. The department estimates this initiative has saved approximately $250,000 in claims and damages.