It was two days after Christmas, and Larry Thomas was driving from his home in south Wichita to visit some relatives. He headed up I-135, got off at the Ninth Street exit and pulled up to the stop sign.
"Nobody was coming so I just went ahead and went," he recalled. "Before I knew it, they were right behind me. They came around the corner like I was a drug dealer or something."
He didn't realize it, but he had just been pulled over at one of the most heavily policed stop signs in Wichita.
Wichita Municipal Court records show that the Ninth and I-135 stop sign generated 233 traffic tickets last year. None of the other 870 intersections listed on stop sign tickets generated more than 119.
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Thomas, who described himself as a careful driver, said he asked the ticketing officer for leniency.
"I asked, you know, if I could get a warning because I've got a clean record, and I normally don't get pulled over," he said. "They said no. They said they were giving tickets to everybody.
"It was 90-some bucks, and I was like, wow. I didn't think it was fair."
2010 top ticket sites
For the record, the top intersection for red light violations last year was Douglas and Washington, which had 98. The light at Oxford Circle and Rock, which is between 21st and 29th streets, was the only one outside the downtown area that generated more than 25 tickets for running a red light.
As usual, the top speeding-ticket locations last year were on East and West Kellogg. The top locations for in-town speeding tickets were the 1700 and 1800 blocks of South Broadway.
If you're not a turn-signal user, the Municipal Court data suggests that you might want to stay away from 18th and Arkansas. That intersection was listed on more turn signal tickets than any other spot in the city.
Wichita police Sgt. Chris McAuliffe said he wasn't surprised to hear that Ninth and I-135 was the city's top generator of stop sign tickets.
"It's just been a recurring problem," he said. "My lieutenant years ago was on us about being there. For years we've had complaints about people running right through that sign."
Although the intersection offers a wide-open view for drivers coming off the interstate, McAuliffe said, that's not necessarily the case for drivers heading east on Ninth. Those drivers have just passed under the interstate, he said, and may have trouble noticing cars pulling into their paths.
McAuliffe said that Wichita police, unlike some departments, have no formal system for issuing warnings. When an officer is given a traffic enforcement assignment, he said, it's not likely that he'll be handing out warnings.
Police Lt. Joe Schroeder said most police crackdowns on specific locations are the result of complaints or a spike in traffic accidents.
"Believe it or not, officers don't just go out and write tickets because they want to write tickets," he said.
Schroeder said traffic enforcement is as important to the department as enforcing criminal laws.
"Traffic affects everybody in the city," he said. "It has a big impact on the quality of life in this city."
Of the money the city collected in traffic fines in 2010, $91 came from the pocket of Timothy Newton, who was driving home on the night of Dec. 5 when he got off I-135 at Ninth Street.
"It was like midnight," he said. "No traffic. Nothing. I still get pulled over."
He reluctantly paid the $91 ticket.
"I don't think I deserved it, but I paid it because I didn't want my license to be suspended," he said. "I think that sign should be a yield sign."
Kyle Hazelwood of Park City probably agrees.
He turned from Central onto I-135 after work on Nov. 19, then realized he'd left his cell phone back at work. He took the next exit — Ninth Street — and headed down the ramp.
"I know I yielded," Hazelwood said. "I might not have come to complete stop, but I looked and no one was coming."
He, too, reluctantly paid the fine.
"I don't think it was fair," he said. "I didn't cause anybody any harm. Maybe I broke the law, but I felt like I didn't do anything wrong."