RUMFORD — Rumford Police Chief Tony Milligan announced Dec. 2 that the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved grant applications to the Rumford Police Department for funding to increase patrols throughout Rumford designed to improve highway safety over the next year.

One of the more common complaints brought to the attention of Chief Milligan by members of the public are speeding vehicles and distracted drivers in Rumford.
While efforts to utilize periodic traffic enforcement details and install radar speed signs throughout town have been well-intentioned and successful, the success is usually short-lived.
With the number of calls patrol officers are handling day after day continue to rise, their availability to focus on traffic safety and enforcement diminishes. Realizing the importance of highway safety, Chief Milligan said he assigned Officer Bradlee Gallant to specialized grant writing and management training in the hopes that this expertise could be used to secure grant funding to help address these safety concerns in Rumford.
That decision paid off and Rumford PD was recently notified that grant proposals submitted to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to address five objectives relating to highway safety were approved and awarded the department $46,829.20. Those grant objectives and awards are as follows:

1. Speed Enforcement. Rumford is not unlike any other town or city in the world – there is a problem with speeding drivers.
“We see it in crash data. We see it with traffic stops. We hear about it frequently in the form of citizen complaints,” said Milligan.
Based upon crash data maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation, over the last three years in Rumford, there have been 39 speed-related crashes, and some of these crashes involved a pedestrian and some resulted in death.
Milligan said Rumford Police have tried to be proactive with conducting periodic speed enforcement details, but with only two patrol officers normally covering the road at any one time, and the increasing number of calls for service, these officers must respond to on a daily basis, finding time to be proactive is often challenging.
While utilizing speed radar signs at locations throughout town has helped to some degree, it doesn’t effectively take the place of a patrol officer. The Department applied for a grant from the BHS/NHTSA seeking funds to equip two police cruisers with radar units and funds to utilize additional officers to come in during their off-duty time to focus exclusively on speed enforcement.
The Bureau of Highway Safety concurred and subsequently awarded the Rumford Police Department $14,804.32 authorized to be used to equip two cruisers with new radar units and for overtime to conduct speed enforcement details from now through the end of next summer.

2. Distracted Driving Enforcement. Distracted driving is a real problem. While not all distracted driving occurrences result in a crash, a high number of motorists drift out of their lane into oncoming traffic or into the breakdown lane where bicyclists and pedestrians are every day because of their use of a cell phone, particularly texting while driving.
Milligan said that while this activity may seem harmless to the driver, the unintended consequences to pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists can be catastrophic and deadly.
“The sad reality is that offending motorists are often able to correct the drifting vehicle in time before a crash occurs, building a sense of confidence that texting or using a cell phone while driving can be done safely. It isn’t until it’s too late when a crash occurs that driver’s begin to realize the importance of breaking this particular bad and deadly habit,” he said.
Education through TV ads and social media is not enough to break this bad habit. It takes high-visibility focused enforcement action to effect change and save lives. There have been more than 30 documented distracted-related crashes in Rumford in the past three years, and numbers continue to increase year after year.
The actual number of distracted-causing crashes are obviously much higher than documented because it is difficult to prove or solicit admissions from drivers who were distracted while driving.
Milligan said that while Rumford police try to take the time to watch for distracted drivers and take enforcement action, the same problem of limited time and resources make it difficult to make an impact.
The Bureau of Highway Safety concurred and subsequently awarded the Rumford Police Department $11,639.00 authorized for overtime reimbursement to dedicate off-duty officers to focus on distracted driving in Rumford from now through the end of next summer.

3. Impaired Driving Enforcement. Impaired driving is a common problem in Rumford, as it is elsewhere.
Milligan said the number of drivers officers have encountered impaired on drugs compared to those impaired on alcohol continues to increase year after year. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, driving a vehicle under the influence poses a significant risk to the public.
For the past three years, there have been 32 drug or alcohol-related crashes – one of which resulted in a cyclist getting killed, and 43 criminal cases against drivers for operating under the influence in Rumford/Mexico area.
Milligan said trends are indicating the number of impaired drivers on the road today are on the rise. To help combat this problem, the Bureau of Highway Safety has awarded the Rumford Police Department $6,939.80 in overtime funding so that off-duty officers can be utilized to conduct focused patrols and other enforcement activities dedicated to getting the impaired driver off the road.
To further support this effort, Milligan said the Department has sent Corporal Donald Miller to specialized training and has become a certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). This specialty training allows Cpl. Miller to determine which drug(s) an individual has taken and to what extent they may be impaired. This evaluation is crucial evidence when officers charge a driver with OUI-drugs.
Since this training and ongoing certification is costly, most agencies have no DRE on staff. He said Rumford and surrounding communities are fortunate to have Cpl. Miller with this qualification.
In an effort to utilize Cpl. Miller’s expertise both on and off-duty and throughout the region, the Bureau of Highway Safety has awarded the Rumford PD an additional $1,556.48 in funding to help pay for overtime for DRE call-outs and maintaining qualifications. Additionally, the department plans on sending another officer to Phlebotomy training to allow them to conduct blood-draws in serious or unusual cases where a breath test is insufficient or inappropriate for evidence collection.

4. Occupant Protection/Seat Belt Enforcement. Study after study throughout the country have come to the same conclusion – that un-seat belted occupants of a motor vehicle crash are more likely to die than those who are properly wearing their seat belt.
Milligan said, “Nationally, statistics tell us that occupants age 16-24 have the lowest seat belt-use rate. In Rumford, over the last three years, 10 crashes were documented as having an unrestrained occupant in the vehicle, and of these crashes, 20% of those people were under age 21.”
Nationally, the NHTSA has instituted “Click it or Ticket” campaigns in an effort to educate the public and reduce these numbers and the Rumford PD sees the importance in participating in these efforts. The Bureau of Highway Safety has awarded the department $6,935.60 to pay for overtime to dedicate off-duty officers to conduct high-visibility focused patrols to enforce seat belt laws.


5. Pedestrian Safety /Traffic Enforcement. Although Rumford is fortunate to not have a large number of pedestrian-related crashes, two out of three vehicle-vs-pedestrian crashes resulted in the pedestrian being killed.
Milligan said that in 2022, there have already been four pedestrian-involved crashes. In most cases, pedestrian injuries are significant or deadly. In the past three years in Rumford, 29% of these injured or killed pedestrians have been children and 43% of the crashes involved a bicycle.
He said crash investigations revealed that the primary reason for pedestrian-involved crashes is due to the driver’s failure to yield to the right of way of pedestrians in crosswalks.
Along the Route 2 corridor however, more than 57% of pedestrian-involved crashes were the result of pedestrians failing to use a crosswalk or where drivers failed to yield to pedestrians in or near a crosswalk.
Accordingly, the Bureau of Highway Safety has awarded the Rumford PD $4,954.00 in funding to pay for overtime to utilize off-duty officers to focus on pedestrian safety enforcement and to create and present pedestrian education programs to children in our local schools.

Milligan said the department is committed to keeping the community safe and hopes that this grant funding will help drive the number of crashes down. The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety released disturbing numbers yesterday for the number of fatal crashes in Maine so far:
* There have been 152 fatal crashes resulting in 160 fatalities so far this year in Maine; 8 of these crashes were double fatalities.
* There have been 30 fatal motorcycle crashes resulting in 30 fatalities so far this year; Of these motorcycle fatalities, 28 were motorcycle operators and 2 were motorcycle passengers
* There have also been 17 pedestrian fatalities and 2 bicycle fatalities so far this year.

Milligan said, “The trends are not getting better as these are the worst numbers we’ve seen on this date since 2018.”
As of December 1, 2022, there have been 160 fatalities. In comparison, on this same day in 2021: 140 fatalities, 2020: 151 fatalities, 2019: 145 fatalities and in 2018: 125 fatalities.

Milligan noted, “If we can save just one kid, it’s worth it. My hope is not to flood the Court with a bunch of summonses, but rather to educate people to slow down, put their phones down while driving, and to find someone else to drive if they’ve used alcohol or drugs.”
He said, “This comes down to human behavior and effecting change. There are no excuses! These are not accidents – we call them crashes for a reason, and we can prevent them by changing personal habits and education.”

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