News

Officer returns to traffic duty

By Teresa Herriman, The Courier-Herald

Officer Vince Sainati has been missed. Not by the drivers who may have received speeding tickets from him, but by the many residents who have called to complain about speeders.

Since July, Sainati, Bonney Lake's only officer dedicated strictly to traffic enforcement, has been on patrol duty due to a shortage of police officers on the force. Without a traffic officer, patrol officers are expected to pick up the slack. However, traffic control is a lower priority, given the current workload experienced by the community's police department.

The addition of two new officers will allow Sainati to return in January to what he does best - catch traffic violators.

According to published police department statistics, the number of traffic stops between 2001 and 2002 increased by 47 percent. Citations increased 46 percent during that same time period. Yet, despite a significant growth in traffic on state Route 410, accidents were up a mere 10 percent from 2001 to 2002.

"There is a direct relationship between tickets written and the number of accidents," Sainati said.

Not surprisingly, most accidents in Bonney Lake occur on state Route 410 - drivers running red lights lead to the most severe collisions. Sainati said the typical driver will exceed speeds of 45 mph to make a light on SR410, increasing the likelihood of serious injury if that vehicle causes an accident. Sainati sites inattention, following too close and running red lights for the majority of accidents he investigates.

On side streets - as many living in Bonney Lake can attest - speeding is the biggest problem, In the six months since Sainati has been assigned to temporary patrol duty, the number of reported accidents has increased slightly, but the number of complaints to the department about violators has skyrocketed.

When Sainati returns after the first of the year, he will use an unmarked car, motorcycle, radar trailer and citizen volunteers trained to use radar guns, to remind motorists to slow down. Sainati favors the motorcycle. "When people see a motorcycle, they know that is it there for one reason and one reason only," Sainati reports.

When stopped, speeders often use the excuse that that they are late to get somewhere. Sainati said that rushing can cause drivers to not only speed, but to take chances such as following too close behind the vehicle ahead and ignoring rules of the road. Sainati has seen drivers risk their lives, and the lives of others, by getting angry at slow-moving traffic and passing when they shouldn't.

If concerns about safety aren't enough to deter speeders, the threat of deep fines may. For those motivated by money, Sainati has this advice: "If you don't want to pay big fines, don't speed."

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com.

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