Traffic citations up, but police miss goals 

click to enlarge CINDY CHEW/2010 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Cindy Chew/2010 s.f. examiner file photo
Last year, the Police Department committed itself to protecting the public from a dangerous weapon: speeding vehicles.

As part of the effort, the department said it would increase traffic citations of the most dangerous driving behaviors, seen as key in lowering pedestrian deaths in The City.

But a recent review of Police Department citation data shows only one police station out of 10 is meeting its goal to increase driver citations: Richmond station. The other nine lag behind.

Cmdr. Ann Mannix, who heads the Transportation Division, said the department is continuing to improve its crackdown on unsafe driving.

“Prevention is a big part of what we do in policing,” she said. “In this case, it can save lives.”

The City has committed to end all traffic deaths by 2024, in a safety priority called Vision Zero. The Vision Zero strategy involves re-engineering dangerous intersections to make them safer, safety education and safety enforcement — the last of which is the Police Department’s responsibility.

To combat pedestrian deaths, the department committed to raising citations issued on the five most dangerous driver behaviors: speeding, red-light running, failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, failing to yield while making a left or U-turn and failing to fully stop at stop signs.

In commitment to Vision Zero, police call the initiative the Focus on Five, which also aims for 50 percent of citations to come from those five categories.

So far, only the Richmond Police Station is meeting that goal, with 58 percent of its citations in 2014 in the Focus on Five categories. The runner-up station was Ingleside, with 33 percent of its citations from the Focus on Five.

Other stations aren’t faring as well. Only 12 percent of the Central Station’s traffic citations were related to Focus on Five categories. The lowest performing of all stations was Tenderloin, with 10 percent.

City data shows the Tenderloin contains the most dangerous streets for pedestrians, and the most traffic collisions, in The City.

Richmond Station Capt. Simon Silverman acknowledged, “We have an advantage over other stations,” as the area gets fewer calls for service. With less violent crime to deal with, Richmond officers can focus on traffic citations, he said.

But Nicole Schneider, executive director of advocacy group Walk San Francisco, told The San Francisco Examiner that it’s also a goal to which police rank-and-file need to be dedicated.

“What our staff has found is the stations with the best numbers are stations where captains were at the training, officers raised their hands and tried to understand their role in preventing these [collisions] from happening in the first place,” she said. The Tenderloin, with the least amount of Focus on Five traffic citations, is also where 6-year-old Sofia Liu was killed in a collision with an Uber driver in 2013.

Still, there are good signs in the pedestrian-safety numbers, Mannix pointed out. Firstly, total traffic citations increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2014, from 87,000 to 130,000 citations.

And pedestrian injuries caused by car collisions were down 8 percent, from 3,391 in 2013 to 3,117 in 2014. Bike collisions were also down 24 percent.

Most importantly, there have been no pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco so far this year, Schneider noted.

A number of city safety groups formed the Vision Zero coalition. Their newest report, “Where San Francisco Stands in Achieving Vision Zero: Year One Progress Report,” calls on police to increase Focus on Five citations to at least 37 percent this year and 50 percent in 2016.

The police still have a long way to go.

“Let me tell you, we’re focusing on the five,” said Mannix, who is in only her second month as head of the Transportation Division.

“I believe it’s going to get better.”

Traffic Citation Station Totals

Department Wide 2013: 87,629

Department Wide 2014: 130,096

From 2013 to 2014, increased 48 percent

Pedestrian injuries caused by car collisions

2013: 3,391

2014: 3,117

From 2013 to 2014 down 8 percent

Fatalities 2013:

Pedestrians 21

Bicyclists 4

Motorists 9

Fatalities 2014:

Pedestrians 17

Bicyclists 3

Motorists 9

Fatalities YTD 2015:

Pedestrians 0

Bicyclists 1

Source: Police Department

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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