Drivers speeding through neighborhoods. Failing to yield to other motorists. Pedestrians jaywalking. Aggressive drivers following too close and causing crashes.
That's just a handful of traffic-related complaints commonly made by Richland residents to police officers, and they are issues that will be the focus of the police department's newly created Traffic Safety Unit.
"Traffic complaints rank always No. 1 or No. 2 for complaints we receive every week," said Capt. Mike Cobb. "TSU was formed in response to citizen requests for service. ... (It) will address quality of life issues traffic safety brings to the city of Richland."
The new unit started patrolling the streets Nov. 7, with a crew of three experienced officers: Cpl. Scott Morrell, Officer David Clark and Officer Ted Engel.
Cobb said having the veterans on the unit means they already know what they are doing, don't have to take time learning the job, and can be proactive and make an impact immediately.
"We're very lucky we were able to assign the people we did," he said.
The officers will be able provide more focus to traffic safety issues and have the ability to intervene early before an issue becomes more of a problem, he said.
Officer observation, citizen complaints and statistical analysis will be used to help the unit determine where they need to focus time and attention.
The unit will adjust its hours so the officers are on duty at times when traffic is heaviest and more enforcement is needed. Right now they're working 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but come summer they likely will work later shifts because people are out later, said Morrell.
Patrol officers still will handle traffic enforcement and deal with crashes, but the traffic safety unit will provide a more comprehensive approach.
"Their busiest time of the day is our busiest time of the day," Morrell said.
Education also is going to be a big part of the unit's mission.
So far, they have focused their attention on reducing rear-end collisions on George Washington Way caused by cars following too closely, are working with some businesses on jaywalking issues and have conducted patrols near neighborhoods in Horn Rapids where speeding is a concern.
Typically areas where speeding in or near neighborhoods is a problem, it's drivers going no more than 5 mph over the limit, Cobb said. That's when education rather than enforcement can help more.
"Voluntary compliance is the best way to modify behavior," he said. "That's what we want -- people to drive safely."
But that doesn't mean the officers won't issue tickets when extreme speeds are involved.
The Traffic Safety Unit also will work closely with the streets and engineering departments to determine if changes are necessary to help make an area safer.
The unit's patrol cars are clearly marked Traffic Safety Unit so drivers and citizens will know who they are when they are in a neighborhood. The cruisers don't have lightbars on top to help them stand out a little from a regular patrol car, and they have emergency lights on their side mirrors and below their rearview mirror.
Motorists contacted by the officers are being reminded to leave three car lengths of space between the car in front of them -- typically a car length for every 10 mph is recommended -- and use turn signals when turning or changing lanes.
Morrell said they already have noticed a reduction in crashes on George Washington Way just in the first two weeks.
"Traffic is one of the main problems in Richland -- it always has been. ... In Richland, more people are hurt in car accidents than by other means," Morrell said. "The biggest thing is just (drivers) need to be considerate of others."