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Oregon’s Speeding Frenzy

By Rex Goode

Last year, someone circulated an email warning that the Oregon State Police were planning an initiative to write as many speeding tickets in the Portland area as they could in order to raise revenue. The state police issued a response to the email calling it false. Lieutenant Gregg Hastings stated that Oregon state police do not operate speed traps.Personally, I don’t really care which force is doing it; there are speed traps in Oregon.  The response by OSP says that they do sometimes conduct what they call “saturation patrols in areas where there are identified problems that could be addressed through increased Department and interagency patrol efforts.”

I don’t want to get even close to saying that the motives of police officers individually include raising revenues by so-called “saturation patrols.” I respect police officers too much for that. I do believe, however, that the activity of saturation patrols raise revenues and that this plays into decisions about where to conduct these patrols.

I’ll grant that saturation patrols are often needed. I wouldn’t mind a saturation patrol on my street. At one end of my street is an arterial street with heavy traffic. At the other end is the rear entrance to an apartment complex. Frequently, a car will come screaming down my residential street toward that complex. I’ve never seen a citation issued.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t say that speeding tickets are all issued as part of a speed trap. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say that none of them are.

Most people do not know that speed limits are not supposed to be set arbitrarily. It is required by federal regulations that a speed survey be done to determine what the safest speed is. This is supposed to be done every five years.

I’m aware of one Portland-area highway where the speed survey has not been done since 1967. The speed has been reduced to 35 MPH. Speeds may be reduced temporarily by request for reasons related to changing conditions such as road work or the deteriorating condition of the road itself. On that same stretch, the reduction was requested as due to a deteriorating bridge that an engineer said couldn’t handle large trucks traveling faster than 35.

It certainly seemed like the reduction in speed was necessary, but my questions were, “If the bridge is so dangerous, why wasn’t it closed down and why has it taken almost ten years to begin construction? I think that the answer is that it makes a good speed trap.

All over the Portland area, I’m starting to see cameras go up. I was with a friend who was driving off of a freeway onto a surface street. It still seemed by the look of the road that we were still in “highway” mode when a flash went off. We went back to look and the speed was 30MPH.

Many other states have a law against speed traps, like California. Even though federal regulations require the speed survey, Oregon doesn’t care. A law like the one in California would force Oregon to conduct the speed surveys and accept as a defense the lack of a survey being done.

I’m not familiar with the ballot initiative process, but I’m interested in supporting a measure that would make speed traps illegal in Oregon. Anyone want to get on board?

Note: I think Washington state may be in the same predicament. Last Saturday, I was traveling north on I-5 near Tacoma. There was a state trooper in the media on a hill pointing a radar device at me. When he saw I wasn’t speeding, he dropped his arms to his side and walked back to his cruiser, dejected. Poor him.

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5 Responses to “Oregon’s Speeding Frenzy”

  1. Speeding Fines » Rex Goode » Oregon’s Speeding Frenzy said:

    […] More here: Rex Goode » Oregon’s Speeding Frenzy […]

  2. B. Carfree said:

    Giving speeding tickets to someone who is speeding, even with saturation patrols, is not a speed trap. No one needs to pay anything if they don’t want to; all one has to do is obey the law. I know it seems like a difficult concept in these narcissistic times, but motor vehicles operated in an unsafe (which is generally an unlawful) manner kill and maim people. Over 40,000 Americans are killed by dangerous drivers every year and another 4 MILLION are injured.

    In spite of this carnage you want to limit law enforcement’s ability to discourage dangerous driving. I would rather see enhanced enforcement of traffic laws with automatic forfeiture of driving privileges for any moving violation as well as a fine that involves forfeiture of the weapon.

    Follow the law or get off the road.

  3. Rex Goode said:

    Your argument is a straw man, since I did not say that police should not be able to enforce the law. My argument is that the police and the governments they work for are as bound by the law as we are. Oregon is not in compliance with federal law and is issuing citations based on speed limits not properly set.

    In fact, those speed limits are supposed to be based on surveys that include reviewing accidents that have happened along those stretches of roadways. As pointed out, many surveys in Oregon have been completely ignored.

    I’ll grant that speeds in excess of what is safe on a given road is killing and maiming people, but not that every speed set in Oregon is set correctly. Some are too fast. Some are too slow. The point is, if Oregon wants safe roads, they should do the surveys instead of allowing authorities to arbitrarily set traps with the sole intention of illegally raising revenue.

    Show me the evidence that illegal speed traps save even one life. For all you know, the hazard created by pulling over people could be not only causing the deaths of civilians, but unnecessarily endangering the police officers too.

    So, I’m in favor of limiting law enforcement’s ability to break the law. If law enforcement is above the law, they I’m in the wrong state.

  4. A. Starling said:

    There is a known case of a saturation patrol accident putting the police officer in the hospital after he pulled over a speeder on 99W and was hit by the next speeder. If the out of the jurisdiction officer wasn’t there, no one would have been hurt as both the speeders were still only traveling at 55 after the speed had dropped to 45. Makes you think.

  5. Rex Goode said:

    It does indeed!

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