Where the traffic tickets are: 5 roads are hotspots

A Gainesville police officer talks with a driver during a traffic stop near the 700 block of NW 13th Street in Gainesville Thursday May 23, 2013, an area where more than 500 citations have been written in the past year.

Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 8:54 p.m.

Josh Davis is relatively new to Gainesville, but already he knows to keep an eye on his speedometer when driving through town.

The 27-year-old confessed lead foot says he once received nine traffic citations over a two-year period but has not received a ticket in the past four years.

And while Davis' streak could be the result of caution learned the hard way, it also could be dictated by the roads he travels.

Over the past 12 months, Gainesville Police Department officers have issued 26,199 traffic citations to motorists within the city limits, according to data provided to The Sun through a public records request.

“That seems a little bit much, although I speed a lot so, I'm a little biased,” Davis said with a laugh, while driving Friday on Northwest 34th Street.

An analysis of those 26,199 tickets citywide shows that between May 22, 2012, and May 22, 2013, more than 35 percent of all citations were issued on five roads — Northwest 34th Street, Northwest 13th Street, West University Avenue, Archer Road and Southwest 35th Place.

The majority of those citations — more than 13 percent of all citations given — were written on sections of those roads where the speed limit was 35 mph or less or near where the speed limit dropped.

The most heavily ticketed street over the past 12 months was Northwest 13th Street, where more than 3,000 tickets were issued — most of those for breaking the speed limit. More than 1,000 of those tickets were issued in the 600 and 700 blocks, where the speed limit is 30 mph.

Sgt. Joe Raulerson, who heads the police department's Traffic Safety Division, said many of the ticketed drivers didn't realize the speed limit had changed.

“Most of the people we stop still think they're in a 45 (miles per hour) zone, which they haven't been for 20 blocks,” he said. “If they didn't speed, that would make our job a lot easier. We wouldn't have to use resources on trying to keep the speeds down.”

The major goal of the Traffic Safety Division, Raulerson said, is reducing traffic crashes, specifically crashes involving injuries. He said that is accomplished by focusing on areas where there is a high volume of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

“Before we go into a neighborhood, we look at crash data,” he said. “We've seen over a 30 percent reduction in crashes over the last five years, and we're down again this year, too. I think we're headed in the right direction.”

The number of traffic citations issued has been declining — with 30,327 issued in 2010 and 27,594 in 2011, according to GPD.

Alachua County Finance Director Todd Hutchison said total collections for traffic citations issued by GPD totaled $2,876,839 between May 1, 2012, through April 30, 2013. Of that amount, a relatively small percentage went to the city, he said.

For the 2011-12 fiscal year, for instance, Gainesville received slightly more than $457,000 in revenue from traffic citations, he said.

“There are a possible 28 different distributions counting State Trust Funds, Local Trust Funds and the Local Jurisdiction receiving a portion of the fine,” Hutchison said.

Several of the areas that generated the most tickets are frequented by a high number of University of Florida students, especially Southwest 35th Place, which is surrounded by student apartment complexes.

But the majority of the drivers were not necessarily students, Raulerson said.

“Sometimes when the students leave town, it's a good time to go into the area because thieves will be less likely to break in,” Raulerson said of why traffic enforcement details may actually be conducted when many students are out of town.

“Red and blue lights scare away a lot of criminals,” he said.

Online technical producer Jackie Smith led the effort to research Gainesville's traffic citation data.

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