Integrity Matters
October 5, 2006

Traffic citations part of police work

Question: (E-260)

Dear Jim:

Salinas police officers make thousands of traffic stops, ticketing many decent people. Shouldn't cops spend more time on serious problems like robbery, domestic violence and murder?


Police officers issue citations to many "decent folks" who violate traffic laws.

Tickets save lives. When mostly well-behaving citizens break traffic laws, thousands of times per year, they prevent peace officers from other criminal pursuits. The Police Department exists to serve the community by protecting life and property, preventing crime, enforcing the law and maintaining order for all citizens.

Here are some facts about the impacts of poor driving you may not know:

  • Auto accident deaths decline in direct proportion to the number of tickets written for moving violations.
  • Causing injury or death while driving under the influence is the most commonly committed violent crime in our society.
  • Nationwide, 13,000 deaths are caused each year directly related to alcohol and automobile crashes. Thirty-six people die each day, and tens of thousands of lives are scarred for life.
  • Locally, $1 million dollars of the Salinas Police Department's $33 million budget is devoted to dealing with traffic violators.

    The department could save three-quarters of this money if drivers exhibited more common courtesy and self-discipline. That $750,000 saved could deploy seven additional officers into critical-need areas, immediately.

Here are some ways you can help peace officers better utilize their time:

  • Abide by speed limits — all the time.
  • Park in appropriate and legal areas — not handicapped zones.
  • Stop at stop signs; not simply pausing and rolling on.
  • Slow down instead of speeding through yellow lights.
  • Allow others to move ahead when merging, giving way graciously.
  • Keep alcohol separated from driving.
  • Use a designated driver or call a taxi when driving skills might be impaired.
  • Cease with lame excuses when pulled over, such as "I only intended to be in there for a minute," "There was no one coming, so it seemed a silly waste of time to sit there," "I didn't hurt anyone," "I was running late," and ... Blah, blah, blah.
    Make driving a focused activity.
How can a driver concentrate on traffic when talking on the phone — socially or closing a deal, listening to the radio, responding to an e-mail or instant messaging, drinking a soda, trimming fingernails, arguing with a passenger, applying mascara and smoking? And, people do all of this when they should be observing oncoming and merging traffic, pedestrians and animals!

Obeying traffic laws is an individual act of police-partnership integrity.

Drivers who exercise self-discipline and graciousness free up the time of peace officers to fulfill their mission: "Working in partnership with the people of Salinas to enhance the quality of life through the delivery of professional, superior and compassionate police services to the community."

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