SFPD Traffic Citations Increasing Towards “Focus on the Five” Goals

The SF Police Department is issuing more traffic tickets, and a greater share of them are going toward the five most dangerous violations, according to early SFPD data on traffic citations issued so far this year.

This week, a driver was cited for hitting a child and his babysitter in a crosswalk at Fulton Street and 37th Ave. SFPD is issuing more of its citations to the top five causes of traffic injuries. Image: CBS 5

With a new, more efficient database, the SFPD began posting monthly citation data on its website starting in January [PDF] (monthly data on crash reports still isn’t available). The citation reports provide an easy way to track the department’s progress toward meeting the goals set in the “Focus on the Five” campaign, which prioritizes limited traffic enforcement resources for the five violations most commonly cited as the cause of crashes on the streets, all of which are driver violations.

So far, progress on “Focus on the Five” appears promising.

In January, SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali announced a goal of having at least 50 percent of traffic citations going toward the top five violations: running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrian right-of-way, turning violations, and speeding. Last year, 22 percent of citations were issued for those infractions. In January, the share increased to 33 percent, according to the new data posted from that month.

As the SF Examiner reported today, the SFPD is also dramatically increasing the number of tickets issued overall:

From January 2013 to January 2014, the Police Department reported 43 percent more citations citywide, and from January 2013 to preliminary numbers for last month there was a 54 percent increase, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.

“All the stations are up. Across the board, they are writing more tickets,” Suhr said. “Whereas we might have been exercising more discretion and some sort of counseling, now there’s less counseling and more citation issuing.”

Catching traffic violators has become highly emphasized at all 10 police stations, regardless of what other individual issues they face, said Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“In every unit, every officer has been given the directive that transit safety is a priority,” he said.

The share of tickets issued to people walking and biking, however, has tripled:

The increase in citations was not limited to drivers. Pedestrian and bicyclist offenses were also up, with the most issued by the Tenderloin Station — 351 and 42, respectively.

Last year, about 98 percent of citations were issued to drivers and 2 percent to pedestrians and bicyclists, but this year the breakdown so far is roughly 94 percent drivers and 6 percent pedestrians and bicyclists, Suhr said.

The Examiner report broke down which police stations were issuing the most of various kinds of tickets, though the patterns mostly seem to be in line with each district’s characteristics. For instance, most stop sign tickets were issued by Ingleside, which has lots of stop signs, while the same was true for red-light running in the Northern District, which is dense with traffic signals. Mission Station issued the most tickets to drivers who violated pedestrians’ right-of-way, the top cause of pedestrian injuries citywide.

It’s still early, but the SFPD is showing signs that it’s serious about using data-driven traffic enforcement in pursuit of Vision Zero as its enforcement staff grows. Increasing the share of “Focus on the Five” tickets will be crucial to that end, and so far, the SFPD is on the right track toward making San Francisco’s streets safer.

  • Good stuff, for sure. I gave a member report at our March PSAC (Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee) meeting about a pedestrian “sting” operation I observed in January, at Longfellow Elementary at Mission/Whipple. I was generally impressed with the SFPD, although I understand that operation was something that was grant-funded, so it’s not guaranteed to continue past the summer. A key question is: how do we get that kind of work embedded into the SFPD’s standard operations?

  • gary

    Increased enforcement, will they keep it up permanently this time or is it another one day sting and a slide back into business as usual?

  • Albert Ross

    Talk about burying the lede…”Last year, about 98 percent of citations were issued to drivers and 2
    percent to pedestrians and bicyclists, but this year the breakdown so
    far is roughly 94 percent drivers and 6 percent pedestrians and
    bicyclists, Suhr said.”
    So it’s really a crackdown on pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • als

    What was SFPD doing with their time before they started writting all these tickets?

  • Jim Frank

    I saw for the first time motorcycle cops giving tickets to drivers who didn’t yield to pedestrians at Hyde and McAllister. Let’s hope there’s more!

  • jd_x

    Exactly the question. Would love to hear their response ….

  • RichardC

    Whether the % is 94 or 98, it’s clear most of the focus is on drivers, as it should be – they’re the ones piloting deadly weapons. And the numbers indicate that most of the additional tickets are also going to drivers. But I think it’s fair to say some pedestrians and bicyclists should get tickets too, because the reality is that we also need pedestrians and bicyclists to exhibit better behavior if we want to fully address the safety problem.

    Let’s just hope that most of the tickets issued are for truly dangerous behaviors (e.g. running red lights in busy locations) rather than those that are easiest to enforce (slow-rolls through stop signs when no one is coming) – and that goes for all modes.

  • Greg

    They had to hire new cops to write these tickets silly. The existing cops were too busy not enforcing sit/lie, and counting their pensions at their houses in Orinda/Alamo or Tahoe vacation homes.

  • gary

    Not yielding to peds should be the main focus and carrying a heavy penalty. I walk daily and see cars blazing by peds already crossing the street.

  • Greg

    “already crossing the street”? You mean against the red light? In the middle of a block? Ticket drivers that don’t yield to peds but ticket peds that cross in front of cars on red lights, yellow lights, middle of the block, etc.

  • Zack Cohen

    I understand what you’re saying but I think gary was referring to stop signs and cars turning right on green. That is where I encounter the most issues when I walk.

    At a high level I think “Vision Zero” is an unrealistic goal. There are always going to be hobos crossing the street whenever they please. They won’t get tickets because they can’t pay.