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Behind the Badge The truth about traffic enforcement: No quotas

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Posted: Monday, January 10, 2011 12:00 am

Traffic tickets seem to elicit all kinds of reactions from people, including anger, frustration, violence, sadness and the occasional, "Well, you got me."

They also elicit all kinds of excuses and reasons, some good, some bad, some ridiculous and some just plain funny. The last two will be my primary focus.

First though, let me explain a little bit about traffic enforcement. This may seem like common knowledge, but it's a good starting point.

Despite popular belief, we issue traffic tickets with the primary goal of reducing traffic collisions.

Here is how it is supposed to work: The California Vehicle Code details all the traffic laws in the state of California. In theory, if everyone obeyed all the traffic laws, there would be no traffic collisions. No speeding, no running lights, no turning left in front of people, etc.

Every traffic collision report we take, we determine the primary collision factor, meaning what traffic violation caused the collision. There are a handful of ones that are commonly violated, and those are generally our primary target in traffic enforcement.

Over the years, I have written a number of traffic tickets, and have been told a number of less-than-kind things. I would like to dispel some of the myths that seem to be a common theme from people, and share some of the thoughts that go through my head, that for the most part, I generally keep to myself.

1.) "I hope this makes your quota!"

To those of you who have accused me of earning a free set of steak knives or a toaster by completing my daily quota of tickets with the one I just wrote to you, I'm sorry, but it's just not true. You simply broke the law. We do not have quotas, or free kitchen appliances.

2.) If you violate the law and happen to be close to home, then decide to pull over in your driveway when the red and blue lights come on behind you, you are still subject to a ticket. I have been instructed numerous times by the motoring public that I can't write them a ticket because they were in their driveway. I guess I slept through that exception in the Police Academy.

3.) "I have to go to the bathroom!"

We have heard that one so often, I'm starting to wonder if car manufacturers should skip the air bag warnings, and replace it with a reminder to use the bathroom before you drive.

4.) "You parked your patrol car so I couldn't see it. You can't do that!"

I guess I missed my calling of being a magician, because apparently I can make a 3,500-pound police car disappear in broad daylight from the side of a road. I'm sorry, but just because you didn't see me, you still can't do 50 mph on Kettleman Lane!

5.) "You were just watching, waiting for someone to run that stop sign!"

Well ... yeah! We often target intersections that have high collision rates, in an effort to lower them. I would love to find another way to do it, but if the big red stop sign doesn't do it, I don't know another way.

6.) "You should be out catching murderers or something."

I agree. So please quit speeding so I can do that.

7.) "You just love giving tickets! It makes your day!"

Actually, no, it doesn't. But it is my job. I understand the financial burden and other negative aspects of receiving a ticket, but it is occasionally a necessary evil to keep the roads safe.

As a police department, it is our mission to provide a safe city to live in and drive in. Unfortunately, that safety occasionally comes in the form of a ticket.

Have a great new year, and please drive safely.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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