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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Oops! City issues tickets, then admits road signs were not fairly placed

Many $102 citations to be dismissed

July 28, 2005

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A Lawrence Police officer motions a driver to pull into a parking space after turning south onto Massachusetts Street from Seventh Street. Police were pulling over drivers who made the turns and issuing $102 citations to many.

A Lawrence Police officer motions a driver to pull into a parking space after turning south onto Massachusetts Street from Seventh Street. Police were pulling over drivers who made the turns and issuing $102 citations to many.

The angry drivers turned out to be right.

City leaders said Wednesday they'd discovered that signs rerouting traffic around a water-line construction project at Seventh and Massachusetts streets weren't visible enough to drivers. The finding came in the wake of complaints from at least a half-dozen people who had been stopped by police and given traffic tickets Tuesday and Wednesday for disobeying the signs.

"I'm sorry some of the folks got tickets the first day," City Manager Mike Wildgen said, adding that many - if not all - the tickets would be dismissed. "We probably should have had a little better understanding of what was going on down there."

Wildgen said the signs - prohibiting people from turning south from Seventh Street onto Massachusetts Street - weren't high enough to be seen. He said the contractor, Nowak Construction, had been notified of the requirements and would be changing the signs soon. In the meantime, police were asked to stop issuing tickets.

Mary Gordon, 62, said she was surprised when she received a $102 traffic ticket Wednesday.

"I did not willfully disobey the law," she said. "I was confused in Lawrence."

Gordon and other drivers began complaining Tuesday after police staked out the intersection and stopped drivers who disobeyed the signs. Sgt. Dan Ward, a police spokesman, said officers were simply doing their job and responding to a safety concern for the road crews.

"We had numerous complaints from the individuals on the street that they were almost getting run over," Ward said.

But several drivers complained that police were too quick to issue tickets instead of explanations.


A Lawrence motorist, who declined to give her name, watches as Officer Tracy Russell with the city's Traffic Safety Unit issues her a ticket for turning south from Seventh Street onto Massachusetts Street, where water-line construction is taking place. Road work at the intersection has confused drivers, many of whose tickets will be dismissed because the road signs were not visible enough.

A Lawrence motorist, who declined to give her name, watches as Officer Tracy Russell with the city's Traffic Safety Unit issues her a ticket for turning south from Seventh Street onto Massachusetts Street, where water-line construction is taking place. Road work at the intersection has confused drivers, many of whose tickets will be dismissed because the road signs were not visible enough.

Gordon, of Kansas City, Kan., came to Lawrence on Wednesday morning to buy some artisan bread. She said she was going east on Seventh Street and was ticketed after she crossed Massachusetts, despite the presence of a "road closed" sign meant to stop eastbound traffic in the block.

Gordon admitted she saw the sign, but she said it was confusing because the westbound lane remained open.

"I just think if they said 'road closed,' then they should have closed the whole road," she said.

Gordon said she expected the officer to give her just a warning and was shocked when she got the ticket.

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"He was very nice, but I just thought it was wrong," she said.

City Prosecutor Jerry Little said that as far as he knew, the only visibility concerns were with the turning signs, not with the "road closed" sign. But he said he'd review each case on an individual basis.

Wildgen said the water-line project would last another two to three weeks.

Comments

DNovacek 9 years, 4 months ago

No longer live in Lawrence, but re Wildgen's statement:

"I'm sorry some of the folks got tickets the first day," City Manager Mike Wildgen said, adding that many - if not all - the tickets would be dismissed. "We probably should have had a little better understanding of what was going on down there."

The above would unfortunately apply to most people in City Hall most of the time

lunacydetector 9 years, 4 months ago

they're very sneaky. i like the speed limit sign out in the west 6th street construction zone past wakarusa. they placed it right before the road curves (where a lot of oncoming traffic crosses the double yellow because of the narrow bend). you'd have to have the eyes of a lizard to catch the oncoming traffic and the speed limit sign. the cops wait with lazer in hand at the top of the hill. i have seen them pull over countless people.

christie 9 years, 4 months ago

100+ Tickets?

Shouldn't the obvious have been observed? That something was amiss? Shame on the Police Department for taking advantage and just sitting there waiting to issue tickets instead of correct the problem. Protect and SERVE... yea, serve up TICKETS.

spikey_mcmarbles 9 years, 4 months ago

Why not make Nowak Construction pay the tickets? They're responsible for installing the signs correctly.

righthand 9 years, 4 months ago

Not only are those tickets easy money, but it's a lot of money! Recall the recent article about the issue of "safety" in giving tickets for 10 mph over the limit. 10 miles over will get you a $150 ticket in some zones - man, that's raking it in! I guess the extra income from the water rate increase won't quite get the revenue we "need" in Lawrence.

You know, the cops could hide inside of orange barrels. That would really fake us out!

Janet Lowther 9 years, 4 months ago

The traffic enforcement unit exists principally to enhance city revenue, and any benefits to traffic safety are incidental.

Something started going very wrong with this country when the police ceased to think of themselves as "Peace Officers" and started thinking of themselves as "Law Enforcement Officers."

The Law is not required to be either moral or just, merely to pass the legislative process by whatever means.

Curtis Lange 9 years, 4 months ago

I dont see why people are complaining about this. The signs were there. If drivers were paying attention like they should have been, they wouldnt have gotten their tickets. This excuse of 'the signs weren't high enough' is a BS excuse. If you can see over the dash then you could see those signs. Every single person that got a ticket deserved one and should also have to pay it. The police were doing their job and should be congratulated. Now they need to sit at other intersections and ticket the idiots that turn into the far lane instead of the near lane like they should.

my2cents 9 years, 4 months ago

From reading all the comments above, it sounds like you all have a problem taking responsiblity for you actions. You broke the LAW. It is pretty simple. Ignorance is no excuse.

Instead of slowing down, and reading street sign you all just do want you want. That works until there is a story about some car that turns the wrong way for failing to read sign and seriously injuries or kills someone.

After that happens you all scream, where are the police, why aren't they downtown enforcing traffic. So before you all go and start bashing the police for citing people or you, for breaking the law, maybe you should take a step back and take a responsiblity for what you have down.

It seems like most of you want Lawrence to turn into a anarchist city. No rules or laws, great until something bad happens to you.

smitty: By reading some of you past comments, Just because you think there is a coverup or a conspiracy for everything the police department does, doesn't mean it actually works that way. And this chip on your shoulder about Chief Olin is somewhat....mmm...childish. And as for the training, if the police department needs to mandate training on how to read a ROAD CLOSED SIGN or a NO TURNING SIGN, then god help us.

You can think I am a Lawrence Police Officer all you want, but I am not. I'm just think it is rather stupid to think that enforcement of the law doesn't apply in Lawrence.

Mandated Common Sense Course 101:

Road has Road Closed sign of northbound side of road. Driver drives around sign and drives north in the southbound lane. Driver should get ticket. Class Dismissed.

I think some you all should apply some common sense.

spikey_mcmarbles 9 years, 4 months ago

The Federal Highway Administration produces a book called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (M.U.T.C.D.) which sets standards for signs, traffic lights, pavement markings, etc. If a sign isn't placed at the height or position as dictated by the M.U.T.C.D., then regulations regarding that sign can't be enforced. Since the signs weren't placed at the M.U.T.C.D. specified height, then the city HAS to void the tickets, as the signs were improperly placed. It's the city's responsibility to make sure it's signs are positioned in accordance with federal guidelines.

Lib_ee12 9 years, 4 months ago

"I was confused in Lawrence." ha ha, who isn't?

Curtis Lange 9 years, 4 months ago

Spikey, you might want to go back and check out the MUTCD then. According to Section 6F.03, the minimum height off the ground for portable signs is 1 ft. It looks to me in the pictures from yesterday's story that the no right turn sign (sign R3-1) was within those bounds. The 'Road Closed' sign would have been legal too.

So, once again, I say everyone that got a ticket yesterday needs to pay it. They are being rewarded in sorts for breaking the law then bitching about it. Screw that.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

When I entered 7th off of Vermont going east it was not marked clearly as to which lanes travel was permitted. Not only that construction equipment was blocking what looked to be the logical course. Cone placement presented a bit of confusion. In a very busy situation such as this I believe it would behoove the construction company to provide employees as "guides" in order to protect their workers. I did not receive a citation.

oljackbutluh 9 years, 4 months ago

There's alot of differing opinions here, and that's great, that's perfectly acceptable and understandable. I was one of the "lawbreakers" and rec'd a citation, and all was well with going to pay the fine. Now there seems to be a chance it will be dismissed, which is good all the same. The fact the city admitted to what they considered a mistake says alot about how great this city is. I had no problem with paying the ticket because I knew what I had done was illegal, according to the law, but the city felt compassionate enough to admit maybe these citations were given too hastily and easily. What more could you ask for? Be glad for this.

The fact that officers were there to issue tickets when someone disobeyed the law, that too is understandable and appreciated. I must admit I was somewhat upset to get a ticket, but after an amount of sensible thinking, I did deserve the ticket. The police officers have a job to do just like everyone else, and I'm sure they are doing this job to the best of their abilities. I feel much safer in Lawrence than any other city this size simply because there are so many patrolling as they should be. And you should be glad they are.

I admit that $102 might be a little "pricey", especially with today's economy in the shape it is in, but it might do you some good to be thankful a ticket is the only thing you have to worry about. There's alot of other people in this world, living in far worse conditions, and you're crying about a little traffic ticket? You got a ticket so that means you have a car, or at least access to one, and that's alot more than many people, even in our own community, have. Quit crying, grow up and take some responsibility. But on that same account, those who are "pro-ticket", please express your opinion but don't bash those who did get a ticket, you never know when your next ticket is coming...and please leave poor Mary alone, all she wanted was some bread. Have a good weekend.

blueblood 9 years, 4 months ago

Yes, the awful officers were out just to right tickets for money they don't directly receive. Oh wait, officers were there b/c the road crew was almost run over by people who were in too big of a hurry to see the road closed signs and "confusing" signs with a right turn arrow crossed out. the road crew asked the police to run traffic enforcement there, which they did. but i'm sure officers just love giving tickets to people b/c they love to get bitched at, it really makes their day i'm sure. and as anyone who has ever worked in or studied politics knows, just because the city "apologized" for the tickets doesn't mean they weren't justified, they're just bowing to public pressure, which this city is great at doing. and by the way, for those of you who think $102 is outrageous for violating a traffic law that routinely leads to accidents, consider this, in California a low end traffic ticket for running a red light, etc. is $300, and you can even be fined $1,000 for LITTERING. so stop your constant complaining, and pay attention when you drive, especially in construction zones, and you won't get a ticket.

John1945 9 years, 4 months ago

A traffic cop is simply a paid thief. Why weren't they helping motorists rather than simply sticking their hands in their wallets?

Thanks to the laziness of the Lawrence PD stores are terrorized by punks who loot them en masse. In this case all the PD accomplished was just one more situation where honest citizens were confronted by an armed thug.

gwilliamson 9 years, 4 months ago

Since my picture appeared in today's paper without my permission, I felt the urge to comment on this subject.

First of all, I was stopped by Officer Russell for driving around a Road Closed sign on 7th Street and not for making a wrong turn. Did I know it was wrong to drive around the sign, of course I did, but I was trying to get to Borders. Officer Russell was very professional and courteous. He explained why he was giving me a ticket for driving around the barricade. I accept my punishment and do not question why the police was there.

While I was stopped, another car was pulled over by another officer. This lady ranted and raved about the officer giving her a ticket and not directing traffic around the construction zone. The officer told her the signs were placed in the intersection for that same reason. I agree. Why would I want to pay a police officer to stand in the middle of an intersection directing traffic when I can have a construction crew place signs directing the flow of traffic. Reading some of these posts gave me the opinion a lot of you take no responsibility for your own actions and place blame on the authorities.

Now to the LJWorld photographer worm who was hiding behind the bushes in the alley taking my picture. When you asked me for my name, I declined because I despise your news reporting. It didn't surprise me at all that you chose to print my picture in the paper without my permission anyway. Typical Journal World.....

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