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City Police cracking down on speeders

May 08, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Hagerstown City Police during May will crack down on lead-footed drivers who ignore speed limits.

Police plan to increase enforcement efforts, and will target intersections with high accident ratios and areas where residents have complained about speeders, said Capt. Robert Hart.

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"We'll be out in full force," he said.

Hart said officers will focus on Mulberry, Franklin and Washington streets, Dual Highway and Cleveland Avenue, Edgewood Drive, Washington, West Side, Maryland and Northern avenues, South Potomac Street and Wilson Boulevard.

Hagerstown Police Officer Michael Moats spends much of his day stopping speeders and other traffic violators. Last year, he issued about 50 tickets a month.

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He said he has noticed an increase both in the number of vehicles that are going too fast and the number of complaints about speeders.

"Last month I wrote in excess of 70 speeding tickets and it's still not enough," he said.

Hagerstown City Police issued 2,930 speeding tickets and 617 warnings in 1999, according to statistics from the department's 1999 annual report.

Moats said he recommended a saturation enforcement effort to make the public aware of the dangers of speeding and to make it clear that police have zero tolerance for speeding.

"Our ultimate goal is to get people to slow down and reduce the amount of accidents and fatalities," said Moats.

Speeders won't slow down "if there is no fear of apprehension or penalties," he said.

Moats said officers who make traffic stops during May will be tough on speeders and will issue tickets instead of warnings.

Enforcement will be heavy on Salem Avenue because of frequent complaints by residents in the Woodpoint Avenue and Key Avenue neighborhoods, he said.

The officers' primary tools against speeders will be radar and laser guns that measure how fast a vehicle travels over a specific distance.

Holding a $4,000 Pro Laser II gun in his right hand, Moats demonstrated how the speeding enforcement technology works by pointing it at a car moving toward him on Washington Avenue near Girls Inc.

The 1999 model runs internal tests that it must pass before it can be operated, he said.

The laser gun resembles the large hand scanners used at grocery or retail stores. It works by aiming a red dot in the gun's scope at a reflective surface on a vehicle such as its tag or headlights.

Once an officer pulls the trigger, the laser gun uses a mathematical formula to calculate the speed at which a vehicle is traveling, Moats said.

City police prefer the laser gun because they feel it is more precise, he said.

"A laser unit is target-specific like a rifle and a radar spreads out more like a shotgun," he said.

Laser gun and radar gun technology is accurate and false readings are generally easy to detect, according to Moats, who offered some advice for those who get pulled over.

A driver who gets waved over by an officer on the street or who notices a patrol car behind the car with its lights on should find a safe place to pull over, Moats said.

The driver should stay in the vehicle, put his or her hands on the wheel and not get out identification until the officer tells them to, said Moats.

"Don't be moving around. We won't know what you are doing," and an officer might suspect a driver is hiding drugs or a weapon, he said.

If a motorist acts nervous, evasive or can't provide accurate basic information about himself, police may become suspicious and ask to search the vehicle, he said.

Police will explain why a driver was stopped, request a driver's license and registration and verify the address. Drivers must produce documents immediately upon request or be cited, he said.

A check is usually made to determine whether there are any outstanding warrants on the driver or if his or her license is current and valid.

Officers will explain the ticket and the driver's options, which include paying the ticket or pleading not guilty and having a hearing.

Drivers may also plead guilty with an explanation to the judge of why he or she should receive leniency.

Police will be polite when making the traffic stop and drivers should be, also, said Moats.

"The experience doesn't have to be bad for you or the officer," he said.

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