Fremont, California
Getting the Community Behind School Traffic Safety, Seat Belt Compliance and Red Light Photo Enforcement

"We took some heat about stopping people simply because their seat belt wasn’t fastened, but I would rather take the heat than try to explain why someone’s child was injured or killed. The most dangerous thing drivers do is to fail to stop on a red light. I have been trying for years to find a way to enforce respect for traffic signals, and this solution is a simple one that could resolve a major problem."
- Mayor Morrison


In looking at Fremont’s traffic safety needs, the city decided to place its priorities upon three areas:

  • school safety programs;
  • seat belt enforcement; and
  • red light running enforcement.

The first two initiatives are underway, and the third is in the planning stages. In implementing these programs, the Fremont Police Department interacts extensively with the community in order to gain maximum public support for both enforcement and prevention efforts.

School Safety Programs

The Fremont Police Department Traffic Services Unit coordinates a Crossing Guard Program, employing approximately 30 local community members. These adults staff busy intersections before and after school for the purpose of stopping vehicular traffic to allow students to cross the street safely.

To augment the work of the adult crossing guards, the Traffic Services Unit coordinates a second program - the citywide Junior Safety Patrol composed of elementary school students. These youthful volunteers assist younger children in crossing the street before and after school.

The Fremont Police Department Traffic Services Unit is also active in the School Safety Advisory Committee. In addition to the police department representatives, this interagency body consists of members from the City of Fremont Transportation Engineering, Fremont Unified School District, Fremont Unified School District Transportation, and school parent-teacher associations. The committee cooperatively addresses traffic hazards, congestion, and other safety issues surrounding local schools.

In addition to these existing programs, the Fremont Police Department is currently exploring innovative ways to reduce traffic congestion around the schools. The Traffic Services Unit is in the process of coordinating a series of meetings between city officials, school district administrators, and private sector transportation specialists. The goal of these meetings is to develop a partnership between the transportation specialists and the schools, students, and parents to promote safe walking groups, teach bicycle safety, and implement trip reduction programs.

Seat Belt Enforcement

Recognizing the value of seat belts in reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions, the State of California enacted its mandatory seat belt law in 1986. In 1993, California changed its mandatory seat belt law from secondary to primary enforcement. As a result of this legislation and the corresponding enforcement, California’s seat belt compliance rate was the highest in the nation in 1997.

The City of Fremont capitalizes on the state seat belt law as an injury prevention measure. As a means of encouraging compliance, officers from the Traffic Services Unit and the Community Policing Patrol of the Fremont Police Department practice aggressive primary enforcement of the mandatory seat belt law, issuing an average of 155 citations each month. However, in addition to stringent enforcement, the Fremont Police Department also places emphasis upon education so that the public understands the injury prevention rationale for the seat belt law. Accordingly, the police department conducts numerous presentations to community groups, stressing the importance of seat belt usage - especially to children. As a result, seat belt compliance in the City of Fremont is estimated to be nearly 90 percent.

Planned Photo/Computer Enforcement Of Red Light Running

In 1996, the State of California enacted legislation authorizing automated (photographic) enforcement systems for red light violations. Typical systems consist of an unattended camera linked to the signal light system to photograph the violator and the vehicle license plate for the subsequent issuance of a citation to be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. The advantages of such systems is that they offer constant, unstaffed enforcement and deterrence.

In an effort to reduce red light violations in the City of Fremont, the Fremont Police Department began exploring the possibility of installing a photo/computer system. The City Council authorized the proposed system in 1996, but the approved vendor was unable to accommodate the city’s order. Therefore, the Fremont Police Department is currently revisiting the issue with the hope that the City Council will again approve the installation of a photo/computer system. As with other traffic safety initiatives in Fremont, the police department will work with the community for public support of this automated enforcement measure.

Contact: Sgt. Clarise Lew, Traffic Services Unit, Fremont Police Department, 510/790-6763.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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