INDIANAPOLIS — EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from a previous report about an increase in reckless driving cases.
Police departments across Indiana are sharing in millions of dollars in federal grants intended to help curb reckless driving that's led to an increase in fatal crashes during the pandemic.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute recently awarded the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department $1.5 million for the effort, Indiana State Police is getting $1 million and nearly 200 other police departments will divvy up a remaining $4 million.
Police will use the money to conduct "zero tolerance" overtime patrols and sobriety checkpoints, mostly during specific enforcement periods throughout the year.
The first enforcement period, the Safe Family Travel campaign, will take place around the Thanksgiving holiday. The campaign aims to cut down on impaired driving and promote seat belt use during the holiday season.
The funding comes in response to a "drastic increase" in the number of traffic fatalities last year, despite there being fewer driver drivers on the road for months in the height of the pandemic.
CJI said that unfortunately this year is "shaping up to be even worse," citing a report recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In the first half of 2021, more than 20,000 Americans died in crashes. That's an 18.4% increase compared to the same time last year. It's also the largest six-month increase ever recorded in the reporting system’s history, according to the NHTSA.
In Indiana, traffic fatalities have exceeded pre-pandemic levels with 683 people being killed by early October. This rate is around the same as last year and 8% higher than in 2019.
CJI warned if the pace continues and with the holiday travel season ahead, Indiana could surpass 900 traffic fatalities by the end of the year. This would be one of the highest in the past decade.