Disguising Speed Traps

July 13, 1993

News that Maryland State Police from the Westminster Barrack are being stationed behind tractors and hay wagons with their radar guns focused on the highways to catch speeders has prompted complaints that this technique is unfair. People caught in these traps grouse that troopers are using deceit to catch them.

We think this unconventional and innovative technique has great promise and may help slow down the traffic on Carroll County's roads, and perhaps on other roadways elsewhere in Maryland.

Too often speeders deliberately hit their brakes when they spot a marked cruiser and then put the pedal to the metal as soon as they are out of radar range. If drivers suspect that every school bus, tractor trailer or recreation vehicle parked along the side of the road is a State Police radar monitor, they will be much more likely to obey the speed limit for no other reason than to avoid a ticket.

Despite the howls of protest from some folks caught by the radar guns, hiding behind a hay wagon to catch speeders is not entrapment because the state police are not encouraging people to break the law. The officers are merely disguising themselves much as they do when they conduct an undercover or plainclothes operation.

Speeding is a problem on many of Carroll's roads, and it is contributing to the number of fatalities and injuries in automobile accidents. Last year, 33 drivers died and 1,405 people were injured in Carroll auto crashes. Most of these deaths occurred on the county's major highways -- Routes 140, 97, 32, 27 and 26 -- that are conducive to speeding. These roads are straighter and more level, and in some parts they have median strips. Negligent driving was the main cause of these fatalities, but state police say that speeding often was also a contributing factor.

Devotees of high-speed driving say the 55 mph limit is too low and should be raised. At present, most violators are traveling at least 15 or 20 mph over the posted limit. Raising the maximum posted limit will only tempt them to drive at 85 or 90 miles per hour, a danger on any road.

Obeying the limit is the best way to avoid a ticket. People who speed are endangering themselves, their passengers and all the other drivers on the road. If setting up road traps behind hay wagons helps to slow these irresponsible people down, the state police deserve our thanks for making Carroll's highways safer for all of us who have to drive on the county's roads.

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