COLUMBIA — The number of traffic violations in the state and Boone County decreased last year.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, speeding violations in 2008 were down 8.7 percent, from 113,273 in 2007 to 103,458.
In Boone County, the number of speeding tickets dropped 14.5 percent, from 11,334 tickets in 2007 to 9,687, according to the municipal court clerk.
Officials cited a number of reasons for the decline, including open positions within police traffic units, high gas prices last summer and possibly, more careful drivers.
“Our patrol is not at full strength,” said Capt. Zim Schwartze, traffic commander for Columbia Police Department. “We have had difficulty staffing the traffic unit, which is a specialty unit that supports the patrol.
"Our motorcycle officers’ primary job is to write traffic tickets, and we have had one motorcycle officer position vacant since November.”
Vacancies such as these have led to the decrease in tickets, she said.
In 2008, the Columbia Police Department reported an increase in calls for service, making officers busier overall with less time to issue traffic violations, she said.
“Officers don’t have the same luxury or time to make traffic stops that they’ve had in the past few years,” Schwartze said.
Sgt. Paul Reinsch, Troop F public information and education officer for the Highway Patrol, said officers also saw that traffic was down last summer when gas prices were substantially higher.
“Officers also noticed people were slowing down,” Reinsch said. “Gas prices could very well have something to do with it.”
Schwartze said people might be making a conscious effort to drive cautiously to prevent a violation and fine.
“Whatever works to slow people down, we are happy with,” Schwartze said. “Hit them in the pocketbook.”
Capt. Brian Weimer with the MU Police Department agreed that a number of variables could cause a decline in tickets.
“We are as committed toward traffic violations now as we were three years ago,” Weimer said. “We are always looking to keep the area safe.”