GUEST COLUMN: The intent of traffic enforcement is safety not quotas

By: Rod Bernsen
February 18, 2014 Updated: February 18, 2014 at 8:00 am
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The whole idea of traffic ticket quotas boils the blood of the driving public.

For most people, their only encounter with a police officer will be the traffic stop for a vehicle code violation; never pleasant for the driver and most police officers.

Consider this, studies show that drivers commit at least one major moving violation, i.e. running a red light, speeding, etc. every 10 miles we drive. This means all of us commit 1,200 serious traffic violations each year based on 12,000 miles driven. Unless you are a very bad driver with very bad luck, you got away without getting a traffic ticket, many, many times.

Police officers whose primary duty is traffic enforcement, usually motorcycle officers, write tickets that are their job. Patrol officers, too, write traffic citations.

The goal of traffic enforcement is the free flow of traffic and prevention of accidents resulting in death, serious injury and property damage. No one can argue this is not a laudable mission.

Some think that coppers are writing traffic citations to raise revenue for the city or county. True, some of the traffic fine goes to the city or county, some of the fine goes to the courts and still part of the fine goes to the state; a traffic fine is hardly a treasure trove.

The reason for traffic citations is to make it painful for the driver. Paying a fine hopefully will change the driver's behavior - stop violation of traffic laws. After all, a stop sign, is not a suggestion, drivers must come to a complete stop or possibly face a citation and fine.

Manufactures of widgets expect their employees to make a certain number of widgets each shift, failing to do so means the employee is not doing their job. Service employees ignoring the customer means the employees are not doing their job. These employees will lose their job. Patrol officers who do not write at least one traffic ticket on a routine eight, or 10 or 12-hour day, remember we commit 1,200 violations yearly, are not doing their job.

Motorcycle officers, whose primary duty is traffic enforcement, who are not writing between 10 to 30 (or more) traffic citations each watch are not doing the job taxpayers are paying them for.

Do officers or department abuse their traffic enforcement power? Yes.

A local example is County Line Road dividing El Paso County and Douglas County. Douglas County Sheriff's deputies frequently sit at the bottom of hills on this road and using radar catch motorists speeding. The problem is the speed limit is set too low for the overwhelming number of drivers -5 percentile of drivers, the recognized standard.

By not doing a traffic survey, El Paso and Douglas Counties are doing a serious disservice to prove the speed limits are set to low, as are Douglas County deputies for writing these "humbug" tickets.

Each year there are few, if any, serious accidents on County Line Road - remember the primary reasons for traffic enforcement: free flow of traffic and prevention of traffic accidents causing death, serious injury and property damage. Douglas County sheriff's deputies who are writing these easy citations are violating the intent of traffic enforcement.

All of us want to travel our streets and highways safely and to do so we have to obey traffic laws or expect to give some of our hard-earned money paying a fine for breaking the law. And we expect our coppers to stay within the intent of the law as well.


Monument resident, Rod Bernsen is a retired Los Angeles police sergeant.

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