A select group of San Bernardino police officers recently got to work the coveted 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. shift looking for child safety seat and seatbelt violations.
Officers issued 30 traffic citations, mostly for the targeted violations. They also made five arrests and impounded six vehicles, apparently due to unrelated infractions. Their crackdown was part of the nationwide Click It Or Ticket campaign.
Funding for the targeted enforcement came from Viewers Like You, at least indirectly. The police department received a grant from the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration via the California Office of Traffic Safety.
A recent Police Chief magazine article claimed that traffic safety can be branded just like anything else. The author, NHTSA's Susan Gorcowski, argues that since a catchy slogan can convince consumers to buy a certain cola, a catchy slogan can convince motorists to buckle their seatbelts or drive sober.
Rather than randomly issue citations to Kern County drivers who happen to get caught, Ms. Gorcowski encourages local police departments to find out what people in the community are doing - are they driving drunk, speeding, running red lights or not wearing their seatbelts? - and design a marketing effort to deal with the problem.
As a result, we could see fewer individual patrol cars in Lamont and Shafter and more police checkpoints. These well-meaning officers are just doing their jobs, but the fact is that they have a financial incentive to write cellphone tickets, seatbelt tickets or whatever else the grant is funding. Pressure for an officer to write a certain type of ticket could be a defense in traffic court.
Mark Bigger is committed to giving individuals a voice when dealing with speeding and traffic tickets.