Crackdown on speeders begins


As the silver Chrysler passed under the first bridge, the trooper flipped a time clock switch. He flipped it again as the car passed under a second bridge a short distance down the road.

Dividing distance by time, the computer displayed the average speed in large, red digital numbers: 70.1 mph.

Another speeder nabbed by the State Police Stopping Team.

The Stoppers were out in force yesterday, setting up traps throughout Maryland as the agency began a crackdown aimed at reversing a trend toward higher speeds on the state's highways.

Recent studies have shown that more than 15 percent of all motorists on Maryland's interstate system travel at speeds greater than 65 mph, said Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, a state police spokesman. The official limit is 55 mph.

By noon yesterday, a team of five troopers from the Waterloo barracks handed out more than 50 speeding tickets to motorists passing through Howard County on Interstate 95. By the time they quit at 3 p.m., they had bagged 86 speeders, most of whom were traveling at least 70 mph.

An article in The Sun Sunday described the increased speeding on Maryland's highways -- and a simultaneous decline in the number of speeding tickets issued by police. But Lieutenant Shipley said the agency knew of the studies and had planned this crackdown in advance.

The state police superintendent agreed. "This is not an effort to see how many tickets we can write," said Col. Larry W. Tolliver. "I am greatly concerned with the degree to which speeds are climbing. The number of vehicles traveling at well over 70 mph is dangerous and needs to be addressed immediately."

All regional barracks are using radar and laser-equipped teams, unmarked cars and even airplanes to catch speeders. In addition, VASCAR-plus, the computer used by Waterloo troopers, is popular because it measures a car's time over a set distance and is not detectable by radar or laser sensors.

VASCAR caught Patricia King, a Baltimore lawyer rushing to the District of Columbia Superior Court yesterday.

"I'm not feeling so good right now," said Ms. King, 47, who believes the speed limit should be higher than 55. "I tried to get out of the fast lane into the slow lane, but I had to speed up for that. I should have just stayed in the fast lane and ignored the driver behind me."

Even so, she said, "I think it [the speed trap] is a good idea. It makes me uncomfortable to drive that fast, but I get tailgated a lot, or other drivers make me speed up to keep up with the flow of traffic. They [police] need to keep it up out here, because if everybody is speeding, it's very dangerous."

The speeders nabbed yesterday disagreed over what effect the crackdown will have.

"What is the speed limit out here?" asked Dan Frazier of Rochester, N.Y. When informed it was 55 mph, he answered, "Oh, then I was speeding. I was doing about 65."

When he learned he was actually clocked at 74.7 miles per hour and would pay $60 for it, he became a reformed driver.

"Is this going to slow people down? Heck yeah. It is for me. I didn't even know I was going that fast," he said.

"It's garbage. It's ridiculous," said a Baltimore man in a metallic green Dodge Intrepid who threatened to withhold his contribution to the state police fund this year. "Everybody else is going with the flow of traffic. I'm sure there were people going just as fast as I was, if not faster. They're just randomly picking cars, and it's not consistent whatsoever."

Cpl. Gloria M. Wilson noted that by the time most speeders spot the trooper who nabs them, it's too late.

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