Dramatic Rise in SFPD Citations to Drivers Without Licenses

San Francisco police officers issued twice as many tickets to drivers operating without a license between January and May this year than they did for all of 2010, according to data from the SF Police Department (SFPD). The spike contrasts with an overall drop in traffic violations.

“I think it’s important to feel like there is active enforcement going on when people drive in a way that endangers other people,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “It’s good to be paying attention to these numbers.”

In the first five months of 2011, police issued 3,271 citations for driving without a license compared to 1,616 issued in 2010.

SFPD Captain Al Casciato, head of the Traffic Bureau, said he couldn’t explain the jump, and that officers haven’t been targeting license-less drivers. He suspected that there may be more drivers on the road with suspended licenses due to late payments in a tough economy, although suspended license violations are categorized separately in the data.

“Just off the top of my head, what I think it is is a lot more of these state agencies suspending licenses for failure to make payments – child support, welfare, court judgments,” he said.

Traffic citations citywide have declined by 18 percent, except for a few stations like Ingleside, which had a 55 percent increase this year and targeted drivers who violate pedestrian right-of-way in 2010.

Casciato attributes the decline to a shortage of officers on the road as well as more effective enforcement on dangerous arterials that could be coaxing drivers into better behavior.