The next time a Salt Lake police officer says he wants to give you a ticket you might want to say "thank you" - sincerely.

Because the officer might be thanking you, by way of a free movie ticket officers are handing out the next few weeks to polite pedestrians and well-mannered drivers.It's a temporary program that the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and city officials hope will encourage safer driving and reduce the number of accidents, especially those involving pedestrians.

"It's one of the things we can do to thank (courteous drivers and pedestrians) . . . and hope more and more people do the right thing," Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini said at a press conference recently.

Construction of I-15 has forced more cars onto city streets, and there are some motorists who forget they're no longer on a freeway.

Law enforcement continually warns that if motorists don't slow down and pay attention, someone will get hurt. For the most part, those warnings go unheeded.

The number of auto-pedestrian accidents are up this year by more than 100. In all of 1996 there were 337 auto-pedestrian accidents. Through October there had already been 458.

More than a month ago, city police announced they'd more vigorously enforce traffic laws regarding pedestrians, and prosecutors promised to ask for stiffer penalties for violators.

The point is not to make money or arrests, they said. It's to save lives.

The city's business owners are hoping this new incentive program will make the streets safer.

"We hope it makes a difference," said Mark Balsinger, Carmike Theaters regional manager.

Balsinger's company is providing Salt Lake City with 500 tickets, but he said more tickets might be donated, depending on how well the program works. He says everybody likes movies and with the big titles lined up for the holidays, he's hoping the idea of a free ticket will help.

"It's the drivers we're really targeting with this," Balsinger said.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," he said. "I drive from Logan to Provo, and I see exactly what they're talking about."

Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega said every officer will have movie tickets to give out. Pedestrians will be awarded a single movie admission ticket. Motorists will be mailed a pass for two tickets.

"Our hope is this is going to change patterns and people will continue to drive more courteously, permanently," Corradini said.

The Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce approached Bal-singer and asked his company to participate in the program. Carmike has 13 theaters in Utah and the company is building a new complex adjacent to the E Center in West Valley City.