Junior Brian Kovacs had no idea that turning right on to Carroll Boulevard from South Belvoir Boulevard was against the law until the University Heights police officer pulled him over.
“I wasn’t too upset until the officer told me he was writing me a citation,” Kovacs said via email. “At that point, I was rather upset, considering the thought of receiving a citation for making an illegal right hand turn. I tried explaining to the officer how I had no idea that the sign was present notifying drivers of the illegal right hand turn until I went back to look at the sign.”
The sign, posted on a utility pole at the northwest corner of the intersection, depicts a no right turn symbol. Below the symbol, the sign says the law is in effect from “7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday,” and is “strictly enforced.”
According to University Heights Police Chief Steven Hammett, the sign has been in place for approximately two decades to curtail traffic in the residential area. Hammett, who began his duties in August, said resident complaints played a part. He said the most recent complaint from a resident came approximately a week and a half ago.
“We do get complaints regularly,” he said. “[They say] that the traffic sign has been ignored and students are still making a right turn coming down their street.”
Timothy Peppard, director of Campus Safety Services, believes University Heights may be looking more for more offenders.
“There might be a little more enforcement going on. I don’t know that for sure,” he said.
However, Peppard said, he has not received complaints from students.
“To be honest, I have not heard from any students whatsoever,” he said. “But I have heard from other people that have had an acquaintance, or a visitor, or somebody coming to the campus for some kind of business that had been given a ticket.”
Kovacs couldn’t remember exactly how much his ticket was, but he said it was in the $200-$225 range.
“I was really pissed off at this point considering it was an absurd fine for such a petty violation,” he said. “I went to court and I remember paying an additional $25-$30 in court fees which made me even angrier. It was a very quick appearance at the courthouse, I think I was there for no more than five minutes.”
Peppard said he didn’t expect the traffic law to be a student issue.
“You don’t want students to get hit for $200, for goodness sakes,” he said. “But, more often than not, [students] figure [the law] out real quick.”
Hammett said the fines imposed on tickets are set by the Shaker Heights Municipal Court, which includes University Heights in its jurisdiction. A phone call to the court on Tuesday afternoon went right to voicemail, as the court was closed in the afternoon due to Election Day.
The Office of Admission, on its website, directs prospective students and their families to enter campus through the Carroll Gate, off North Park Boulevard. At another University webpage, jcu.edu/about/map.htm, visitors are directed to the gate at South Belvoir Boulevard. If the gate is closed, the directions tell visitors to continue down South Belvoir to Fairmount Boulevard. After taking a right on Fairmount, visitors should take the first right on to Hadleigh Road, veering left at the fork and continuing straight into Carroll Boulevard, where they turn right into the Carroll Gate.
“You sure don’t want somebody that’s coming here for the purpose of putting on a program or bringing their children with them to take a tour of the campus, or interview students for employment, or whatever to be put in that situation,” Peppard said. “The signs are big. It’s not like they aren’t visible or anything. It’s [just] not something you anticipate.”
Peppard believes there is a larger issue. Drivers can come down South Belvoir, make a legal U-turn and come back.
“I think that’s probably not the safest thing to do,” Peppard said. “People go down, go past the intersection and turn around and come back. I wish you could turn right [at Carroll Boulevard] personally.”
Hammett does not see the traffic law being lifted in the near future.
“In the morning, you would have a significant increase in traffic, and I believe in the evening probably between 3 and 5 [p.m.], you’d have a significant amount of traffic on a residential street. That’s a lot of traffic,” he said. “And our complaints [that we get] would drastically increase.”
The entire situation left Kovacs with a sour opinion of the University Heights Police Department.
“I’ve never been more angry about receiving a ticket,” he said.