Nearly 1,000 tickets were issued in the first nine months of this year for cellphone driving offenses, according to traffic enforcement statistics released earlier this month by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
Police also bulked up traffic stops for seat belt violations, going from 250 tickets in the first nine months of 2012 to 487 tickets for the violation in the same period this year – a 95 percent increase.
At the same time, the number of citations given to drivers for offenses like speeding and drunk driving dropped sharply in 2013, according to police stats.
DUI-related arrests went from 182 in January-September 2012 to 107 this year. Speeding citations fell by more than half year on year, with 1,315 in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 614 through September this year.
Although the department noted there was a special effort to enforce a partial ban on cell phone driving – which was outlawed locally in late 2011 – there was no conscious decision made by the department to reduce traffic enforcement in other areas.
“The rise in other crimes has had an impact on the time/resources that we have been able to dedicate to [speeding],” RCIPS spokesperson Janet Dougall said. “We are always looking at new ways to target speeding and dangerous driving.”
For instance, one method used by the police since 2011 is having the RCIPS helicopter target dangerous driving or speeding by motorcycle operators, which police patrol cars often cannot follow through traffic safely.
“The collaboration between the helicopter and the police street patrols has led to a number of people being prosecuted and, where appropriate, motorcycles being confiscated,” Ms Dougall said.
Police said it was difficult for the department to say whether traffic offenses like speeding or DUIs have decreased since the RCIPS can only report on the cases it detects.
Ms Dougall said the department does not consider speeding or drunk driving any more dangerous than other traffic offenses.
“All traffic offenses have the potential to affect lives and road safety,” she said. “Cellphone driving is no easier to detect/enforce than DUI.”