A new sheriff in town

     There's a new sheriff in town and he's keeping an eye on your driving, my driving, and best of all, my teen's driving — at least if you're living in DeForest, Wisconsin.

     In this community — population 8,500 — the new lawman manning the local speed trap could be your neighbor. The DeForest Police Department loans radar guns to average citizens, putting them to work in grassroots speed-limit crackdowns.

     Now, these civilian vigilantes cannot write tickets, but they can report speeders to the cops, who in turn, issue warning letters to offending drivers.

     In a similar effort, American Family Insurance launched the Teen Safe Driver Program in 2006. DriveCam video recorders placed in teens' vehicles log data, which is later reviewed by behavior analysts at the DriveCam review center. Analysts score new drivers on their actions and reactions, and share their findings with parents. One year later, after more than one million miles of teen driving, the insurance organization reports far fewer accidents and zero injuries among the program's users.

     These types of programs can clearly save lives, especially among young drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports crashes are more common among young drivers than any other age group. In fact, the organization finds that one in four crash fatalities involves someone 16 to 24 years old.

     Through initiatives like these it's possible to prevent fatalities and promote safer driving one motorist at a time. And as the mother of a soon-to-be licensed teenage daughter, I, for one, would welcome information on any tire-screeching escapades she's involved in — the new sheriff in town definitely has my vote of support.