Out of all the calls the Cranston Police Department receives, speeding is at the top of the list. Over the past three years, Cranston Police have written 7,376 speeding tickets and arrested 56 …
Out of all the calls the Cranston Police Department receives, speeding is at the top of the list. Over the past three years, Cranston Police have written 7,376 speeding tickets and arrested 56 motorists for reckless driving.
“Officers don’t enjoy giving out tickets, but it’s necessary to get the message across to change driving behaviors,” said Cranston Chief of Police Col. Michael Winquist.
The department keeps a list of the locations that received complaints and makes sure police assess those areas and – if needed – conduct enforcement efforts. Aside from patrolling the areas, Winquist said the department will put out traffic collection boxes for one or two weeks on roads of concern which track the volume of vehicles over a period of time. The information is then downloaded and provides police with a statistical analysis of the time of day vehicles traveled through the area as well as how many of those vehicles mildly exceeded the speed limit, greatly exceeded the limit or drove under the speed limit. The department then shares the results with the individual who made the complaint so they understand what is going on and that sometimes the need for traffic enforcement is low.
Winquist said the department determines which roads to monitor based on a combination of enforcement crash data and complaints from citizens. The department prioritizes areas where the violations are taking place with Winquist noting that Narragansett Boulevard tends to receive more complaints. When the roads are paved and smoother, people tend to travel faster.
Two program funders allow CPD to have extra patrols on the road to address speeding: the Cranston Accident Reduction and Enforcement Program (CARE) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). CPD received $53,040 for CARE, which includes a four-hour detail per day ($204) each weekday for every week of the year and other areas of interest such as stop signs and overnight parking and $45,100 for Speed enforcement from NHTSA through the RIDOT Blue Riptide Grant for 2021-2022; the department has spent $19,307.32.
When a motorist is pulled over, the decision of whether to write a ticket is up to the officer’s discretion. Winquist said officers weigh various factors including how fast the person was going, their driving history, if they’ve received a warning from the same site of act and if they’ve received a ticket in the past year. The department either writes the violations for Municipal Court of the State Traffic Tribunal. Cranston Police try to route written violations go through the city court so it is convenient for the citizens and the officers, should they need to testify in a trial.
In a driver’s first offense for speeding within Rhode Island, the fine for 11+ mph is $95+ (mph over speed limit x 10). In the second offense within a 12 month period, the fine is $95+ (mph over speed limit x 15). In the third offense within a 12 month period, the fine is $95+ (mph over speed limit x 20) and requires a hearing.
Winquist said the department saw a decrease in tickets during the pandemic since not as many cars were on the road. Now that more people are on the road again, officers are actively addressing speeding to deter it from occurring. Winquist added that since school is starting up soon, the department will have officers patrolling around schools to ensure the roads are safe for the kids and that drivers are being respectful of pedestrians.
Other Enforcement Options?
While some cities have speed cameras, Winquist said he’s against them.
“There’s no replacement for an officer being out there educating others,” Winquist said. “Public interaction between an officer and motorist is important.”
He said the public feels that the cameras are more of a money collection rather than an effort to keep people safe.
At July’s Public Works Committee meeting, Councilman John Donegan brought up speeding on Harmon Avenue, which resulted in a conversation of deterrent methods.
Department of Public Works Director Richard Bernardo said what he’s heard from the State Traffic Commission is that the best forms of enforcement are police officers and speed cameras. He added that he didn’t believe speed bumps were the answer.
Bernardo said from his point of view speed bumps can incur other accidents and affect snow plows, road conditions public safety responses. Bernardo added that temporary speed bumps destroy the pavement since they have to be nailed in. As soon as the pavement is broken, water infiltration can occur.
“The speed bumps that they’ve put in Providence have actually caused more accidents because people cross the double yellow to avoid them at high speed – so we’re introducing hazards,” said Bernardo.
Winquist is also against speed bumps and speed humps since there are safety issues with those traffic calming devices. While driving in Providence, he has witnessed vehicles zigzag around the speed humps and enter the opposite lane of traffic which creates a dangerous situation.
Winquist said the department has added quite a few speed warning signs that flash strobes of light as drivers approach to inform them of their speed.
“I think they’re a good reminder,” Winquist said, mentioning that he thinks a lot of people don’t realize how fast they’re going.
Winquist said the department looks at tapping into grant money to purchase them; many of the signs are located in school zones.
Concerned by speeding?
Residents noticing continuous speeding issues in their neighborhood or along certain roads can contact the police department at 401-942-2211 and ask to speak with the traffic unit sergeant; the department has a full-time traffic unit consisting of a sergeant and three officers.
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