With the sweep of an arm or a raised palm, the District’s traffic control officers often appear to be defying death as they work to control chaos in the middle of intersections during rush-hour traffic.

They also write traffic tickets. Lots of them.

Although they don’t have the authority of a police officer or the omnipotent presence of parking ticket writers, they have issued 780,000 tickets since 2009, AAA says.

They are perfectly positioned to observe drivers illegally using hand-held cellphones. They wrote some of the 11,068 tickets handed out for that offense in the District in 2011. They also see cars that block intersections, crosswalks and bike lanes. And they ticket jaywalkers.

“They all have the power to stop and ticket violators,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA. “Still, drivers say they are stunned when a traffic control officer pulls them over for a minor moving violation, and not just a parking ticket.”

Townsend said that research shows some drivers — including women and the elderly — are reluctant to stop for anyone other than a uniformed police officer.

He said that the District says, “although there is no ticket writing quota” for the traffic control force, “there is an expectation for TCOs to write an average between 25 to 40 tickets.”