Q Gary, here's some additional information about "dumb" citations.

Officer Elon Steers

California Highway Patrol

A Last week's Page 1 column on dumb traffic tickets generated numerous responses, and today police officers weigh in.

Q Motorists don't know what the stop is for, but in many cases it causes them to do a self-check. They slow down a little, they set down the phone, they buckle their seat belts. They are also aware that there is enforcement occurring, which further supports safer habits.

Meanwhile, the individual being stopped may be upset, or they may be polite, courteous, even enjoyable. However, the stop and the ticket isn't always about them. It's about the violation initially observed.

So I issue him or her a citation for not wearing a seat belt. That person then proceeds home, to work or to a social event and they possibly tell everyone how the horrible CHP writes "dumb" tickets. The end result is every person who hears that story is aware that CHP issues tickets for seat belts and hopefully they double-check themselves and make sure to secure their seat belts and those of friends and family. It becomes educational for everyone who heard the story.

Regardless of the reason for the ticket, hundreds of unrelated people are potentially affected and improve their habits, even if for a short time. That is one of the reasons we write what some perceive as dumb tickets. It does influence behavior, and improved behavior saves lives and reduces injury.


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Officer Elon Steers

CHP

A And ...

Q I once pulled a 50-year-old guy over for a seat-belt ticket. He cussed me out, saying, "Don't you have real criminals who you can catch?" He paid the ticket. Later I got a card. The guy told me the following:

"You gave me a seat-belt ticket about a year ago. I was told by an ER doctor that you saved my life. You see, I thought that you were such a jerk for writing me what I considered a petty ticket that I vowed that I would always wear my seat belt so that I never had to deal with you again. Last week I was in a very bad collision. The seat belt saved my life."

John Flynn

Fremont Police Department

A And ...

Q Last month I pulled over a driver who was dropping off his daughter at a middle school mid-block. He was upset and literally started beating his fist inside his car when I gave him the ticket. His rationale: We were picking on him.

Officer Traci Rebiejo

Livermore P.D.

A And ...

Q I was a motor cop for four years, and wrote thousands of citations. While a warning would almost always have been an option, I didn't give many. Why? No way to track them, and since there are no repercussions (fine, going to court or traffic school and the potential for points on the driving record), I felt they would usually not make a long-term difference in driving habits.

There were violations I would always cite: littering, throwing cigarettes out the window, speeding in a school zone, kids not properly buckled in, etc. I would have a field day if I was still working with cellphone violations!

Ex-Officer Thomas Clark

Santa Clara P.D.

A Now to one my favorite tales.

Q Driver is traveling at 55 mph in a posted 65-mph speed zone in the No. 1 lane texting on his phone on Interstate 238 between Interstate 880 and Interstate 580 recently. I stop him for impeding traffic, texting while driving and having both ears covered by headphones.

He thinks that the ticket is dumb because, after all, he was driving slower than other drivers to be extra careful.

Sgt. Tom Rodrigues

Alameda Cty. Sheriff's Office

A Amazing. And for today's final word:

Q Although the public may not think so, our officers issue quite a few verbal warnings every year. However, sometimes the officer may deem it necessary to issue a citation because he or she realizes the driver is aware of the problem yet refuses to change their driving behavior, get a mechanical violation fixed, or pay registration fees, etc.

Officer Art Montiel

CHP

A The CHP issued 1.1 million warnings last year, compared to 2.7 million tickets dished out for the most common offenses.

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