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Safety, not ticket quotas, is police goal

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom city manager
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Sirens, flashing lights and a police car in your rear view mirror elicit an “oh no” feeling in even the most law-abiding drivers. No one enjoys being pulled over and potentially cited. In recent weeks I have received several calls from residents about traffic citations. Some question why Folsom’s police officers are citing residents for what may seem to be minor traffic violations rather than “arresting real criminals” who threaten our community. Let me explain how we approach traffic enforcement and why it is important for our community. First of all, let me dispel a popular myth. Our officers do not have ticket quotas and there are no contests to see who issues the most citations. Officers in the Police Department’s Traffic Bureau take traffic collision reports and make our roadways safer by enforcing traffic laws. They issue citations for speeding, which is a primary collision factor in Folsom, as well as for running red lights and stop signs, driving recklessly, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to wear seatbelts, talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. Their intent is to reduce the number of traffic collisions, and therefore protect your daughter, brother, mother or friend. A review of recent statistics compiled by the Folsom Police Department is very enlightening. Our traffic officers issued more than 5,000 moving violations in 2008 including 917 for driving at unsafe speeds, 844 for running stop signs, 504 for traffic light violations and 1,175 for cell phone related violations. Speed, recklessness and driver inattention are contributing factors in many serious vehicular accidents. Last year there were 1,112 non-injury accidents in Folsom, down from 1,226 in 2007. There were 281 injury accidents in 2008, compared to 295 the year before. It is difficult to know for sure, but the reduced number of accidents may be linked at least in part to the outstanding efforts of our traffic enforcement team. In addition to patrolling our streets, Folsom’s traffic officers also support innovative regional and statewide safety programs. Participation in the “Every 15 Minutes” alcohol education program for high school students, “Click It or Ticket” seat belt programs and field sobriety checkpoints has the potential to save lives. Enforcing traffic laws is one of the most visible roles that police officers perform. It is easy to assume traffic officers are simply writing tickets when you see them stop a vehicle. Keep in mind that they might also be looking for criminals, confiscating drugs, recovering stolen property, or removing weapons from our community. Traffic continues to be a major quality of life concern for many Folsom residents. I believe our outstanding team of traffic officers performs an important, although often thankless, task. Through their actions, they heighten the safety of our community and enhance our exceptional quality of life. They deserve our respect and appreciation. Kerry Miller is the city manager of Folsom. His column publishes the last Wednesday of every month. He may be reached at kmiller@folsom.ca.us.