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Deterring reckless drivers

(From left) Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Corn, Deputy Darren Andersson, Deputy Dave Green, Sgt. Mike Merrill, Deputy Joe Brown and Deputy Lee Wheeler stand with the Aggressive Driver Apprehension Team vehicles at Silverdale Waterfront Park earlier this week. - Photo by Kassie Korich
(From left) Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Corn, Deputy Darren Andersson, Deputy Dave Green, Sgt. Mike Merrill, Deputy Joe Brown and Deputy Lee Wheeler stand with the Aggressive Driver Apprehension Team vehicles at Silverdale Waterfront Park earlier this week.
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

Reckless drivers are often shocked to discover that the sporty, sleek Dodge Charger traveling behind them is actually a Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy.

Those who have been stopped by an unmarked Charger found out the hard way that it wasn’t just an average vehicle.

The 2007 Chargers, driven by Deputies Lee Wheeler and Rob Corn, are two of the newest vehicles to the sheriff’s Aggressive Driver Apprehension Team (ADAT).

Between May 1 and July 25, Deputies Wheeler and Corn wrote 516 tickets to drivers for a number of infractions including speeding, no insurance, running red lights or stop signs, and negligent driving. The two deputies have made more than 75 arrests for criminal traffic offenses including DUI, reckless driving, violation of the Uniformed Controlled Substance Act and felony eluding.

“We wanted to go with some unmarked cars so we can deal with the aggressive driving problems we have,” said Sgt. Mike Merrill, officer-in-charge of KCSO’s traffic unit. “We’ve had unmarked Durangos since 2001 and people still blow our doors off.”

August is recognized as traffic safety emphasis month with local law enforcement placing special emphasis on motorcycle safety, DUI impaired drivers, road rage/aggressive driving and teen driving safety.

“Statistically, August is the deadliest month for motor vehicle crashes,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The two Chargers were acquired in April, joining the other ADAT vehicles including three motorcycles,

a black and white patrol car and an unmarked 2005 Subaru Legacy, received in May 2006.

The Chargers were of no added expense to taxpayers, according to Wilson, rather, they were purchased in lieu of the standard Ford Crown Victorians.

The Legacy was funded by donations from Subaru and from a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant.

Despite having the equipment and vehicles to effectively deter aggressive drivers, the “three E’s” also are a major contributing factor.

“An effective traffic safety program takes the three E’s, education, engineering and enforcement,” explained Sheriff Steve Boyer.

Having unmarked patrol cars also aids KCSO in the abatement of aggressive driving.

“Traffic is the No. 1 complaint we receive,” Boyer said. “(Aggressive drivers) act like angels around marked patrol cars, but when they’re not around, they take their halos off.”

Both Wheeler and Corn work the night shift and are not only on patrol for aggressive and negligent drivers, but also those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It’s also not a rare occurrence for unsuspecting drivers to try and race the Chargers.

“Just recently I had a couple Camaros pass me going 100 mph on the freeway,” Wheeler said.

When a driver under the influence almost ran him off the road, the driver told Wheeler, “I thought you were just some guy with a Charger.”

When offenders are transported to jail in the unmarked cars, the most common comments, according to Wheeler, are “I always wanted to ride in a Charger” and “I’m going to jail in style.”

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