Traffic tickets fall to new lows

Enforcement of traffic offenses such as speeding, drunk driving and cellphone driving declined in 2014, continuing a downward trend Royal Cayman Islands Police Service statistics have tracked over the past decade.

According to data released Friday, tickets for speeding offenses dropped from 812 in 2013 to 659 last year, a 19 percent decline.

Compared to the number of tickets RCIPS officers were writing nearly a decade ago, speeding citations have dropped 89 percent.

In 2007, when more than 5,700 speeding tickets were issued, police officers were averaging 475 tickets per month. Last year the per month average was 55 tickets.

Speeding wasn’t the only traffic citation to decline last year.

The relatively new offense of “cellphone driving,” which netted the department more than 1,300 tickets during 2013, fell to 947 tickets last year, a drop of 31 percent.

Similarly, drunk driving citations declined from 248 in 2013 to 153 in 2014, a drop of 38 percent. That means just more than 12 people were ticketed per month for DUI during 2014.

Tickets handed out for failing to wear a seat belt dropped by nearly half between 2013 and last year, from 610 citations to 320.

Total traffic offenses declined by about 23 percent between 2013 and 2014. Last year, the RCIPS wrote fewer citations for all traffic-related offenses (5,211) than it did for speeding tickets alone in 2007.

Traffic department

The decline, particularly in speeding enforcement, has occurred over a period of years in Cayman.

According to data examined by the Cayman Compass, the more than 5,700 speeding offenses detected by police in 2007 dropped only slightly to 5,550 in 2009.

The numbers dropped again in 2010, but the department still ticketed more than 4,000 speeders. It wasn’t until 2011 that police records show speeding offenses really tapering off. In 2011, there were 1,956 speeding offenses detected and the numbers continued to drop in 2012 and again in 2013.

In 2010/11, the RCIPS reorganized its traffic enforcement unit, in an effort to put more patrol officers “on the beat.”

“What we’ve done is, where the officers that were predominantly placed at traffic management, we’ve now moved those officers over into regular shift,” RCIPS Chief Inspector Angelique Howell said at the time.

Instead of working out of the traffic management building near the intersection of Crewe and Lyndhurst roads, the police officers are now responding to calls from the police station, which essentially gives the department more flexibility in deploying police rather than designating a specific group of officers as traffic investigators. If the traffic officers are not out on accidents, they can respond to other calls for police service.

For routine accidents where there are no serious injuries and that mainly involve vehicular damage, there is no reason that any line officer can’t handle it, Ms. Howell said. Mostly administrative staff now works out of the RCIPS traffic building on Lyndhurst Road in George Town, although officers can go there to complete paperwork and file reports as needed.

Speed cameras

More recently, Police Commissioner David Baines has mentioned the possibility of using U.K.-style speed cameras to bolster traffic enforcement. The closed-circuit television cameras installed around Grand Cayman in 2011/12 have the ability to operate speed cameras at their locations now.

However, the commissioner told lawmakers last summer that there are some issues with speed cameras in Cayman, since there is no direct delivery government mail service to home addresses and not everyone here maintains a post office box.

“Speed cameras have been used very successfully to prevent accidents … and indeed to fill treasury coffers,” Mr. Baines told Legislative Assembly members in June. “They have no discretion. But as it stands at the moment, it would be thousands of extra summons [to court] served by my officers.”