The threat of getting caught always makes people a little more hesitant to ignore traffic regulations.
No one wants to get a traffic ticket, but most law-abiding residents will welcome the Lawrence Police Department's traffic unit established late last year.
The unit has the potential to increase traffic safety in Lawrence in a number of ways. Stepped-up enforcement so far this year already has raised the awareness of 113 people who were cited for seatbelt violations. Another 17 people were cited for violating child restraint laws.
Using seatbelts and requiring youngsters who ride in your car to do the same is a proven safety measure, but human nature being what it is, we may be lax in complying with the law. Knowing that police officers are taking the time to monitor that activity and issue tickets will, no doubt, provide added incentive to buckle up.
Lawrence police officers also hope to put more emphasis on monitoring adherence to speed limits in the city. Many drivers would confirm that speed limits too often are ignored, creating increased danger for both motorists and pedestrians. Perhaps if police enforcement is stepped up in this area, city officials will find it less necessary to construct expensive "traffic-calming devices" in various trouble locations.
The same may be true for traffic controls at some intersections. One of the primary reasons cited recently for possibly replacing a four-way stop at 19th Street and Barker Avenue with a roundabout was that it was too easy for drivers to ignore a stop sign, while the obstacle created by a roundabout would force them to slow down. Perhaps a more palpable threat of being ticketed for running a stop sign would make such an expensive construction project unnecessary.
The traffic unit is being made possible with the assistance of federal funding. Although Lawrence was the largest Kansas city without a dedicated traffic unit, it reportedly was difficult to dedicate the resources to the effort because of the time officers spent investigating more serious crimes. Speeding and seatbelt use are not the most heinous crimes being committed in Lawrence, but they are issues that affect almost all of us every day. Making the streets safer for motorists and pedestrians has a direct impact on Lawrence residents' quality of life.
As we said, no one wants to get a ticket. Be advised the chances of getting caught violating a traffic law are a little greater in Lawrence these days. So buckle up, slow down, don't rush to beat that yellow light. If you do, you just might see those red lights flashing.