MPD’s Shadow Program cracks down on distracted drivers

Shadow vehicles report traffic violations to marked patrol car to make stop
MPD’s Shadow Program cracks down on distracted drivers

Distracted drivers should think twice before picking up their phones to text or speeding down the highway because at any given time while on the Beltline, you could unknowingly be driving right next to a police officer.

Whether you’re texting, talking on the phone or speeding the Madison Police Department has an eye on you and you might not even realize it.

“We all know whenever there is a squad car on the roadway driving behavior changes. By doing a shadow vehicle, a vehicle that is unmarked and is a police vehicle and having a plain clothed officer in the vehicle, driving behaviors do not change. So you never know when an officer is going to be out in a shadow car,” Madison police Sgt. Raheem Rahaman said.

An officer in a shadow car could follow drivers for miles. Once they see a driver break the law, they report the violation to an officer in a marked patrol car and shortly after the driver could see flashing lights in their rear-view mirror.

“People get really confused because they get stopped and they say, ‘Well you just came up from behind us,'” Madison police officer Erv Marks said. “Then they have to tell them that they were being observed by me for a period of time and I stay with the violator until the officer gets up close enough to actually make the stop. Then I tell them they have the right vehicle stopped.”

With so much congestion on the Beltline this summer, it’s a method some drivers say they support.

“If we would compare the unmarked police car to any of us as observers, if we saw someone who was texting on the road, or speeding, or driving erratically; I think I would call 911 and call it in,” driver Janet Powell said.

The shadow method is not something the police department is trying to hide. Rahaman said he hopes the shadow will alert motorist and encourage safe driving on the roadways.

“We could be out here at any time, any day of the week; so please beware. That’s the point we are trying to make. You never know when we are observing driving behaviors,” Rahaman said.

Tuesday officers issued six citations and one warning on the Beltline within 3 1/2 hours while using the shadow patrol car. The program was reinstated this year due to a large amount of public complaints regarding distracted drivers on the Beltline.