Smithfield PD tickets by the numbers

Smithfield PD tickets by the numbers

Most citations given for registration, speeding, phone violations

SMITHFIELD – If your registration’s expired, it’s probably not a good idea to drive through Smithfield.

Registration violations have easily surpassed speeding tickets for the first half of 2019, a dramatic shift from last year when speeding took the top spot.

Of the 1,742 citations given by the Smithfield Police Department from January to mid-June, 1,116 were in three top categories of registration, speeding and phone violations.

Police handed out 564 tickets for registration violations, 375 tickets for speeding, and 177 for unlawful use of the phone.

The other top categories for tickets, according to 165 pages of information obtained by The Valley Breeze & Observer through a public records request from the SPD, were:

• Disobeying traffic control devices, 162;
• Not wearing a seat belt, 117;
• Invalid inspection sticker, 46;
• Not having a required light, 37;
• Illegal U-turn, 21;
• Refusal to submit to a chemical test, 17;
• Failure to provide proof of insurance, 14;
• And following too closely behind someone, 14.

More than $179,682 in fines have been issued, though many fines are lessened at traffic court, and 265 warnings issued in an effort by the department to prevent traffic violations and keep the roads safe, said Police Chief Richard St. Sauveur.

The chief said the most frequent complaint he receives from the community is regarding traffic and congestion, and he has a high expectation of his officers to conduct traffic enforcement.

“Generally speaking, the officers have taken an oath to enforce the laws of Rhode Island, including traffic laws,” St. Sauveur said.

“I have very high expectations that my officers are enforcing traffic laws,” he added.

St. Sauveur said laws are created to protect the safety of motorists, and enforcement is one of the best tools for preventing violations.

As reported in the annual report for the year running from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the SPD issued 3,803 violations total.

According to a citation status report provided to The Breeze, from Jan. 1 to June 13, the SPD is on target for another year with similar numbers.

St. Sauveur said there’s often a deeper story behind the data. He said of the 14 citations for following another car too closely, some were most likely given after a collision with another car.

“There’s a life behind every story,” he said.

Most frequently, officers stopped drivers for issues with registrations, varying from expired registration to driving with a revoked registration. The 560 registration citations for six months represented a dramatic jump on the 445 citations issued in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Some stops had multiple registration violations, including improperly displaying plates or not providing registration information.

“As far as I’m concerned, there are far too many unregistered vehicles on the road,” St. Sauveur said.

He said officers with the SPD are frequently looking for registration violations. He said an unregistered vehicle is often an uninsured vehicle as well.

In 2017-2018, the most frequent citation issued was for speeding, with 816 violations. So far this year, the SPD has issued 375 citations for speeding, with 51 citations for traveling 11 miles per hour faster than the speed limit and the remaining 324 for traveling 10 miles per hour or less over the speed limit.

St. Sauveur said his officers are able to use their discretion when issuing tickets, and said he requests that a ticket is written for the reason a vehicle was pulled over. He said that is why there are more speeding tickets written and fewer inspection sticker tickets.

Citations for inspection stickers are down to 46 citations, much less than the year total of 305 in 2017-2018.

At nearly the half-year mark, the number of citations for mobile phone usage is 147, and texting while driving 30, for a total of 177 violations. Last year, SPD issued 212 citations for similar violations.

St. Sauveur said as chief, he routinely emphasizes to his officers the need to be more vigilant and observant of mobile phone usage violations. He said the motoring public is not adhering to cell phone laws.

“It’s disappointing the frequency with which drivers are still talking on the phone, texting and looking at their phones,” he said.

He said people are too attached to their phones, and drivers often take the 11 seconds while sitting at a red light to catch up on social media or texting.

“That is still a violation,” St. Sauveur said. “Pull over.”

Another frequently ticketed violation in 2019 related to disobeying traffic signal devices or stop signs, with 162 violations. For all of the 2017-2018 year, the department gave out 333 stop sign and red light violations, similar monthly numbers to this year’s totals.

Violations for not wearing a seat belt continue to be an issue for drivers in Smithfield, with 117 violations issued this year. In all of 2017-2018, the department issued 176 citations for not wearing a seat belt.

Other road violations for 2019 include 20 violations for possession of marijuana, 13 violations for failing to drive slowly in conditions requiring reduced speeds, seven violations for not showing care when starting from a stop, and 21 illegal U-turns.

Lesser-charged citations show two violations for littering and two for muffler violations.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is not on the civil citation report as it is a criminal offense, but the report showed 17 citations for refusing to submit to a chemical test.