But there are other circumstances that create hazardous driving conditions. They're people that drive without ever having had a valid driver's license or are such poor drivers they have had their license suspended or revoked.
People like that are driving all around us and they're a hazard to every other driver on the road. And they aren't discovered until they commit a traffic violation, or worse, they cause a crash resulting in injury or death.
Of the more than 4 million licensed drivers in Indiana there are more than 222,000 suspended drivers and more than 30,000 other drivers who have had their license to drive revoked for five to 10 years or even for the rest of their life.
Now the Indiana State Police are using technology to find these unlicensed drivers before they crash into your family. The technology is a License Plate Reader (LPR) system mounted to the trunk deck of a state police cruiser.
Indiana State Police use of LPR's is a pilot program that started in June. Over the last several months refinements were made to the LPR software to meet the needs of reading Indiana license plates and reduce the potential for false alerts.
In addition to an LPR-equipped cruiser assigned to a Putnamville Post trooper, there are three other units deployed across Indiana. LPR-equipped cars are also assigned to troopers at the Lowell, Bremen and Sellersburg state police posts.
By the end of 2011, LPR's will be linked into the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) database and will be capable of identifying those vehicles whose registered owner has a suspended or revoked driver's license or is registered to an operator who has been deemed a habitual traffic violator.
In the near future the system will also be capable of identifying vehicles with expired license plates greater than 30 days, but less than a year from expiration.
The suspended driver is a considered threat to the motoring public because of a repeated unsafe driving behavior or failure to maintain the proper insurance. Identifying the unlicensed or unqualified driver with the new technology can help make the roads safer for everyone, State Police believe.
Verifying if a vehicle is properly registered ensures the vehicle was insured when it was plated and applicable taxes and fees have been paid to help maintain roadways in city, county and state locations across Indiana.
"We're very excited to put this technology to use in Indiana," Maj. Brent Johnson, commander of the ISP Operations Support Division, said. "People who drive with a suspended or revoked license pose an increased risk to the responsible licensed drivers in Indiana. This technology will undoubtedly save lives by helping our troopers identify unlicensed drivers and get them off the road."
The LPR works by constantly scanning license plates -- at a rate of up to 1,800 per minute -- as the police cruiser passes by vehicles while parked or when vehicles pass the state police vehicle on the highway.
They are capable of reading license plates from every state in the union, plus Canada. When a license plate is read by the LPR, it is compared to existing BMV databases to verify whether or not the registered owner has a valid license.
However, locating drivers who are not properly licensed isn't the only value of the LPR system. The LPR will alert the trooper to any license plate read by the system that has been entered in the nation's national database. This would include license plates listed as stolen or associated to cars that have been stolen or involved with some criminal activity. The LPR system could also identify a car being driven by a missing person or a Silver Alert victim as well as vehicles associated with an AMBER Alert.
Each LPR system costs about $22,000.
The four systems now in use were purchased by the state police with grant funding from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).