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Editorial: Traffic ticket enforcement key to safety improvement


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WRITING traffic tickets might not qualify as headline-making news, but an added emphasis by Columbus police on the practice over the past two years has yielded results that very probably saved lives.

As to the effectiveness of the renewed emphasis on discouraging violations of the traffic ordinances, the department has some pretty convincing numbers.

There is no question that police are taking their assignments seriously. During the first six days of this year, 297 traffic citations were issued. That compares with 71 in the same time period last year.

Even that modest number in 2012 is reflective of the heightened approach. Traffic stops increased by 8.5 percent in 2011 and 12.9 percent in 2012.

 

A corollary to those numbers is a set of statistics relating to traffic accidents that has dropped by about 2 percent in each of the past two years.

While there can certainly be an economic connection between the statistics, the emphasis on making traffic arrests also can be seen as contributing to public awareness about the need for traffic safety.

Faced with the prospect of paying fines for such violations as speeding or running traffic signals, it would seem that most motorists would opt for staying within the law on the road.

But a greater police presence on the city’s streets also sends a reminder that drivers should exercise caution when driving. It is a reminder that many either forgot or simply never heeded in the past.

Many traffic violations are not necessarily willful acts of disobedience but instead amount to mental slips. Human reactions, such as automatically slowing down on the interstate at the sight of a patrol car, reflect this conclusion.

There have been areas of the city where some motorists have adopted the attitude that they can get away with violating the law. Some well-traveled streets, such as Central Avenue and 25th Street, have in the past become drag strips where drivers routinely drive 10 to 20 mph above the posted speed limits.

In recent years, citizen groups have taken their concerns about these danger zones to local authorities and gotten results. Officials took action to reduce speed and increase driver awareness on Central Avenue after a group of parents expressed concern about the safety of their school-age children when crossing the street at an intersection with Rocky Ford Road.

While past traffic-control programs have often evolved into temporary measures that eventually are phased out when public attention wanes, it would seem imperative that this initiative be maintained in the long term.

The numbers speak for themselves, especially the reductions in traffic accidents in each of the past two years.

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