By Jacob Turnrose | News Editor

Traffic citations have increased in the past two weeks. A citation for rolling a stop sign costs $80. (Gabby Vanacore/COLLEGIAN)

In an email sent on Feb. 8, Adan Tejada wrote to all students, faculty, and staff, stating: “We have received many complaints about speeding on campus, device use while driving, and flagrant stop sign violations. I have personally witnessed many flagrant stop sign violations directly outside of the Public Safety office.”

In an interview with The Collegian, Tejada, the Chief of Public Safety, elaborated on his experience observing traffic violations. He put a camera on the stop sign directly outside the Public Safety office for several days and viewed footage of an exceptional amount of drivers rolling through the sign. “I encourage [anyone] to stand near a stop sign and see what I’m talking about,” he said.

On another occasion, Tejada stood at the entrance of the back parking lot near the Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center in plain clothes to observe traffic. There, he witnessed a vehicle speeding down De La Salle Drive from the Agenos, turning sharply left across double lines into the parking lot, and nearly colliding into another vehicle driving up the road. Many vehicles do not yield to oncoming traffic, he said.

Public Safety has received multiple complaints of a similar nature.    

He’s also witnessed several vehicles nearly run over pedestrians attempting to walk on a crosswalk. “I’m really thankful [a driver] hasn’t hit a pedestrian yet,” he said. 

In responding to Tejada’s own observations and the complaints from various members of the Saint Mary’s community, Public Safety has “stepped up [traffic violation] enforcement,” Tejada wrote in the same Feb. 8 email. “As Public Safety does not conduct traffic stops, [the citation notices] are sent directly to the registered community member for the offending vehicle,” he wrote.

This is a brand new method. Upon seeing a traffic violation, Public Safety officers will write down a vehicle’s licence plate number, the date, and the time of the violation. Then they will simply mail the owner of the vehicle a citation notice.

Even if the owner isn’t driving at the time the citation is given, they will still be the recipient of the citation. “You are responsible for your vehicle,” Tejada explained.

All vehicle code citations, including speeding, running a stop sign, driving through a crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing, and using a hand held device, cost $80.

This is different from past policies of enforcing traffic conduct. Prior to 2012, officers would simply pull over vehicles that violated traffic rules and give the driver a citation. However, there was a question over whether Public Safety, which isn’t a police force, had the legal authority to do so.

After Tejada came onto Public Safety, the practice was stopped. “I couldn’t find anything in the law that allowed us to [conduct] traffic stops,” he said. After Tejada realized they did not have the jurisdiction to conduct traffic stops, Public Safety began to follow cars and give citations after they parked.

This was deemed ineffective given the likelihood that a vehicle in violation might not be parking, but rather driving off campus.

The new policy allows for vehicles to be cited in these instances as well.

The amount of citations has increased, according to Tejada. Public Safety has mailed a total of 164 citations since the new policy was implemented two weeks ago.

With the new policy, Tejada reasserted: “Our goal is not to write [citations], but to modify behavior.” An ideal week does not consist of giving out as many citations as possible, but in witnessing no traffic violations, he said.

Public Safety’s goal is not to make money either, he said. Prior to the 2014-15 academic year, Tejada said that people would often forget to pay their citation fines on time. As a result of this, many students had to pay twice the amount of their original citation.

In response, Public Safety decided to start sending out a courtesy email reminding recipients to pay by their deadline. “People pay their fines on time now,” said Tejada. “We’re making less money, but that’s not the point. Our goal is behavior modification.”

Tejada said that Public Safety will explore ways to make public, on a regular basis, the number of traffic violations given out in an effort to better inform the Saint Mary’s community.

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