- Austin police gave 26% fewer traffic tickets in 2011
- Most larger Texas police departments wrote fewer traffic tickets in 2011
- Reduction in federal pork one cause of fewer Texas traffic tickets
- Why are Texas cops writing fewer traffic tickets?
Nine of the state’s 10 most populous cities had fewer traffic cases filed in municipal court in 2011 than the previous year, according to statistics from the state Office of Court Administration. (San Antonio was the lone exception, with 16 percent more traffic cases.)The paper quoted Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo insisting that "there’s a direct correlation between traffic enforcement and bad outcomes," but at least for fatalities, that doesn't jibe with the data. The newshook for the story was that Austin traffic fatalities increased this year, but statewide traffic deaths have declined in recent years despite hundreds of thousands of fewer traffic tickets being written statewide. The Statesman reported in August that:
Even Texas Department of Public Safety troopers issued an average of 443 fewer tickets per day in 2011 than they did in 2008 on Texas highways — a 14 percent drop, although the number remained virtually the same from 2010 to 2011. The slowdown has come as the state’s population continues to grow.
In 2010, ... the state saw 3,028 traffic deaths and about 234 billion miles of driving, the audit said.
That equates to 1.29 deaths per 100 million miles driven, the formulation used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for evaluating road safety.
In 2006, by comparison, the death rate was 1.5 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in Texas. The rate fell every year between 2006 and 2010.If Acevedo were right that there's a "direct correlation" between traffic enforcement and fatalities, then why have traffic deaths declined statewide even as police in Texas dramatically reduced the number of tickets written? That bit of conventional wisdom doesn't match the statewide data. Any correlation is at best indirect and much stronger correlations may be found, for example. between declining traffic deaths and improved medical techniques, expanded access to regional trauma centers at hospitals, and better safety equipment in the vehicles themselves.
Indeed, singular focus on traffic enforcement contributes to government ignoring other factors leading to reduced accidents, like improved traffic engineering and public transportation. My own view is that within a couple of decades, perhaps sooner, we'll see traffic deaths plunge even further thanks to technological advances that reduce or eliminate driver error. If and when that happens, it will fundamentally change the role and tactics of local police, who in Austin, despite recent declines, presently spend more time writing traffic tickets, according to a consultant's 2012 staffing analysis (pdf), than on any other activity.