You didn’t just imagine it.
Over the past year, traffic citations have spiked in the city, the result of increased enforcement operations by the Petaluma Police Department to apprehend drivers who are breaking the law.
Moving violations shot up by 41 percent from last year, while parking citations have nearly doubled, according to police statistics.
“It’s a department wide effort,” says traffic sergeant Ken Savano. “Historically, DUIs had been our biggest priority, but we also realized that we had to address other issues such as moving violations, bicycles and pedestrians.”
Over the past year, the police department has been using grants from the Office of Traffic Safety to conduct operations aimed at things like safe driving by motorcycle riders, cell phone use and bicycling violations.
Contrary to popular perception that increased citations are a way to meet quotas or boost department revenue, Savano says the only goal is to increase awareness and educate drivers.
“Issuing traffic citations is the least desirable part of our jobs, but we do it because we know it changes behavior,” he says, adding that there is an inverse relationship between citations and accidents.
“What we’ve seen is that when we increase enforcement, collisions go down,” he says.
Petaluma is ranked as one of the worst among cities of a similar size for bicycle and pedestrian accidents as well as young drivers under the influence, the reason it has received numerous grants from the Office of Traffic Safety. It also leads a cluster of 103 similar sized cities in terms of DUI arrests, meaning that drunk driving continues to be a problem here.
When it comes to parking citations, a whopping 261 were given out by March 2012 compared to just 132 the same time last year. Savano attributes this to a new part-time parking officer hired in January 2012. Two other full-time parking agents also make sure downtown drivers don't leave their cars in one spot all day long.
"It's important to keep those spaces open and available for people going there to shop," Savano says.
What do you think? Are you concerned about the increase in both parking and traffic tickets? Share your thoughts in the comments below.