State police crack down on aggressive driving with undercover operation

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — You don't have to drive far to find a construction site on Indiana roads. This summer, they seem to be everywhere and law enforcement says it brings an increased need to stay alert.

On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department held a sting operation aimed at catching and educating those who text and drive.

Last week, Indiana State Police with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration held another undercover operation focusing on commercial vehicles.

The sting was planned weeks in advance. An ISP trooper riding shotgun in an 18-wheeler spotted vehicles driving aggressively or distracted. He then radioed to chase cars stationed in different areas along the interstate.

Trooper Kyle Hankins — who joined state police 19 years ago — took one of the calls.

The driver of a four-door sedan followed too closely, merged multiple lanes without a turn signal, and was talking on his cellphone. He told Hankins he was on his way to an appointment.

"If I’m able to educate the driver, and they understand why I stopped them, I feel like that’s the best enforcement action," explained Hankins as he wrote up a warning.

Hankins primarily works in commercial transportation with the CVSA. He says truckers see similar driving habits all the time.

Mark Baker is one of them.

"It’s eye opening. All the things I’ve seen, it makes you appreciate how dangerous it really is," said Baker. "If everyone else could see they might think about it a little differently.”

Baker drives for Carter Express. He helped law enforcement in the undercover operation.

His truck was equipped with several cameras throughout the cab.

"I see a lot of erratic lane changes and with all the construction stuff there’s a lot of stoppages," Baker says. "We run up on some stoppage real quick and if you don’t pay attention, you’re going to get yourself in trouble real quick.”

It was hard to ignore that the operation took place just two days after a deadly semi crash on I-465. 

It killed 29-year-old Alanna Koons and her twin 18-month-old daughters.

The driver of the semi, 57-year-old Bruce Pollard, was arrested and charged with reckless homicide.

Police say Pollard was distracted and speeding through a construction zone when he plowed into the back of stopped traffic.

Even though the sting operation was planned prior to the crash, it's another reason to remind people about safe driving, whether it's behind the wheel of a semi or driving around them.

It may be obvious who receives the consequences for breaking the law in a personal vehicle, but what about in a commercial truck?

Hankins says like any violation police write the ticket to the driver. They are responsible for any fines or penalties. They are also at the mercy of their company, who has to sign any ticket or warning and send it back to ISP.

Police look to hold companies accountable as well.

Each company has a Department of Transportation number. State Police say every violation is tracked and categorized. Those categories include unsafe driving and maintenance.

If a company exceeds a certain number of violations in the category, a progression of correction is triggered. It begins with a warning letter which includes recommendations for best practices.

If the problem progresses, an inspector may review the company to find the source of the problem.

Finally, a company could be subjected to full review into every aspect of their practices. That includes logs, training, hours and hiring.

State police say if the company shows no desire to fix a problem they could be flagged or have their tags pulled, but they say the primary goal is to fix the issue.

When it comes to drivers, a CDL license could be pulled, but it depends on the violation and the number of convictions.

The penalties adopted in most states resemble federal law. That chart can be found here.

Whether you're behind the wheel of a semi or a sedan, police say stay alert and be aware. You never know when or where a trooper is watching.

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