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Police use social media to ease traffic violations in San Luis Obispo

It’s back to school season for college students in San Luis Obispo, and police say that means more traffic accidents. In response, the department is rolling out a traffic warning program that involves social media.

“We have a lot of collisions relating to bicycles and pedestrians,” explained Sgt. John Villanti of the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD).

Villanti said many college students in town don’t understand that bicycles are considered vehicles in the state of California.

“And they have to abide by all the rules of the road: stop at stop signs, have a headlight, go with the flow of traffic,” Villanti explained.

Distracted pedestrians add to the problem.

“People walking around, they’re looking at their phone, they’re not even paying attention to where they’re going,” said Villanti.

Sgt. Villanti said this means sometimes, people are crossing when they’re not supposed to, or darting out in front of cars in the middle of the road. So SLOPD came up with one solution.

“We ask in exchange for giving them a warning that they post on their social media site what they were stopped for.”

The idea behind this is to raise awareness about rules of the road for cyclists and pedestrians. Some SLO residents are on board.

“If I was stopped for Jay-walking, it’d be much better for somebody to tell me ‘oh just tweet about it’, you know what I mean?” said resident Cedar Marshall.

“I think it’s better to get like a warning and that way you’re warning other people around the county,” Lola Renteria agreed.

Some cyclists said they support this program, too.

“My bike light gets stolen, I get a ticket for it,” shared Phillip Furia, who said he’s gotten multiple biking tickets in the past. “I get a massive ticket [because] I’m just not aware of the laws here sometimes.”

The warning program has been in place since Thursday night. Police wanted to roll out this system before the start of the college school year.

Officers said they won’t follow up with traffic violators on social media to make sure they posted about their written warning, but they’re hoping cyclists and pedestrians will want to do this as a favor to their friends, warning them of what not to do on the road.

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