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Sticker situation

By Joseph Altman Jr.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 6, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Risk Management officials have fielded more than 170 complaints about everything from ladders hanging out of pickup trucks to people driving on sidewalks after the UA slapped bumper stickers on university vehicles in 1996.

The stickers, on each of the University of Arizona's more than 800 cars and trucks, display Risk Management's phone number and ask other motorists to report unsafe driving they observe.

Most of the complaints, 22.9 percent, are regarding speeders, closely followed by people failing to yield, at 21.8 percent, and complaints of drivers failing to obey traffic control devices, like stop signs and red lights, at 14.7 percent, according to data from June 1996 through Sep-tember 1998. Com-plaints of discourteous drivers round out the leaders, com-prising 7.7 percent of the total calls Risk Management received.

A variety of complaints made up the remaining 32.9 percent, including traffic violations like crossing the center line and driving without brake lights, UA policy violations like people smoking in university vehicles, safety issues like passers-by noticing wobbly wheels and smoking engines, and parking violations. Officials even received one call in July praising a courteous driver.

Although Risk Management fields the calls, it only forwards the information to the appropriate department head and does not play a role in disciplining employees, said Steve Holland, the UA's director of risk management and safety. He said he encourages department heads to gather the facts and simply discuss the matter with their employees so they are aware of the importance of driving safely.

"Whatever action a department takes is a personnel matter, and that's entirely up to them," Holland said. "We're just kind of the broker of the information."

Although that can lead to wide differences in how driving complaints are handled, Holland said that is by design.

"If I was a department head, I wouldn't want a safety director from across campus telling me... to suspend an employee for three days," Holland said. "It is somewhat problematic in the sense that if they're going to take... action against the employee, they're doing that partially based on a call from an anonymous person, so it's not always cut and dry."

In many cases, a discussion with an employee reveals the employee did nothing intentionally wrong, but it may have been perceived as a problem by the person reporting it, Holland said.

"We encourage them (department heads) to try to gather facts, go over it with the employee," Holland said. "Within that context, we encourage that department head to take whatever action they think is necessary."

Facilities Management received the largest number of complaints - 35, or about 20.6 percent of the total.

"Surprisingly, we get fewer than I would think," said Al Tarcola, director of Facilities Management. He said the number of complaints is because Facilities Management uses the lar-gest proportion of UA's vehicles - over 200, or about one-quarter of the university's fleet.

Tarcola said he takes the complaints very seriously.

"If they actually did something they weren't supposed to, they're verbally counseled," he said. "If they're a repeat offender, we put them in progressive discipline."

So far there have been no repeat offenders in his department, but all of the legitimate complaints become part of an employee's personnel file, Tarcola said.

"We make it a matter of record, because if they do this two or three more times, then there's a problem," Tarcola said. "You can't have unsafe drivers on this campus."

A variety of departments, including the Associated Students, Parking and Transportation Services, Residence Life and the Steward Observatory have been the subject of complaints.

Two people even called in 1997 to complain about drivers of the Arizona Daily Wildcat's pickup truck, which delivers newspapers around campus every morning.

In one incident, someone complained he was cut off by the pickup while trying to make a left turn. In the second incident, someone reported seeing the truck speeding through a pedestrians-only area near the Music building, making a sharp U-turn with tires squealing.

"We don't want to see any (complaints), but two, given the large volume of driving our drivers do throughout campus, is pretty good," said Mark Woodhams, director of student media, which oversees the Wildcat.

Woodhams said he remembers receiving the complaints and passing them along to the manager who oversees circulation. No disciplinary action was taken in those cases, he said.

"If the police don't cite them, it's hard to know how bad it is," Woodhams said. "I'd certainly be concerned if we got multiple reports on one driver."

Risk Management even took three com-plaints about itself, according to records - one for failure to yield and two for unsafe parking.

UA drivers seem to be more aware of their actions when they realize the public is watching them, Holland said.

"If you've got the UA logo on your bumper, you're representing the university," he said. "We want our drivers to be aware of that."

Joseph Altman Jr. can be reached via e-mail at Joseph.Altman.Jr@wildcat.arizona.edu.