On speeding tickets and the depressed economy.
A few days ago, the Dallas Police Department announced that they'd be taking an unusual measure to enforce speed limits on Metroplex freeways. They would be using squad cars -- three or four at a time -- to create rolling roadblocks on some of the busiest traffic arteries in the city. To picture this, envision a four-lane highway, with four police cars in line abreast formation (one in each lane, driving beside each other), casually driving at the posted speed limit. During rush hour. Good idea, right? (This tactic was employed often during the oil crisis era of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but has been used very infrequently since then.)
Well, maybe an idea with good intentions. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area has a relatively well-planned highway system, and excepting a few two-lane highways in desperate need of widening, traffic flows smoothly. Well, as smoothly as you can get in a metropolis of more than 6 million souls. Some people, however, see 60 mph as a minimum speed rather than a maximum; I was clocked once doing 85 mph in my 1988 Pontiac 6000 on Interstate 635. Sometimes the leadfoots stick to the leftmost lanes (including the HOV lane), but sometimes they weave through traffic as if they were playing a live-action version of Spy Hunter (minus the machine guns and oil slicks, of course).
So why has the Dallas PD unveiled their new tactic? There are, of course, the usual concerns about safety. It does seem that area law enforcement agencies rotate on a monthly basis between which traffic violations to enforce: speeding, seat belt usage, impaired driving, etc. After the summer's "Click it or Ticket" campaign and the usual holiday drunk driving checkpoints, the focus has returned to speeding. As it should, right?
There's likely something less benevolent at work, though...money. Last week, the Texas Legislature reported a budgetary shortfall of nearly $10 billion, mostly due to falling sales tax revenues. Although the area cities haven't reported similar looming deficits yet, it isn't difficult to guess that they're feeling the crunch, too. And where are the cities going to find the missing income? All signs seem to point to the money coming out of the pockets of impatient motorists.
Don't expect Dallas PD to run the rolling roadblocks for long; I think the campaign is more of a public awareness effort than anything else. It also serves as an opportunity to say "I told you so" when the real speeding crackdown begins...probably as early as this weekend.
The crackdown didn't begin soon enough for two Plano men who were struck by a speeding car early Tuesday morning. The men had pulled onto the left shoulder of northbound Interstate 35 East in Dallas to lend assistance to the driver of a burning car. The men, Demont Matthews and Joseph Wood, were pulling the driver from his damaged car when they were struck by a silver BMW traveling at a speed in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h). The BMW had been driving in the leftmost lane, then swerved onto the shoulder -- in between the stopped cars and the concrete barricade -- and struck the men. The driver of the burning car was injured, but will live. The driver of the BMW was a professional football player, Dallas Cowboys defensive back Dwayne Goodrich, on his way home from a night at a strip club. Goodrich turned himself into police on Tuesday night.
It isn't just the city of Dallas that has intensified their efforts to catch speeders. On my way home from school Tuesday afternoon, the Arlington Police Department had an elaborate speedtrap set up at the Interstate 30/Fielder Rd. interchange. One officer was standing against the overpass railing, training a radar gun on the westbound traffic on I-30. At the bottom of the onramp, two motorcycle cops waited for the go ahead. Further down the highway, another pair of motorcycle patrolmen had each pulled over a vehicle, one on either side of the freeway.
Usually, speed traps are run by a maximum of four officers, but there were at least six present at that particular one. As long as the city has enough money to finish their road construction, I'll be happy.