Speed Traps, Traffic Tickets, Constables and DinosaursPosted by: ChetH Post date: March 23rd, 2012
For a long time there was a speed trap in Taylor that hopefully has recently been deactivated. As an ex Taylor cop my temper would flare each time I passed through this area and realized what was taking place.
The area is a piece of Telegraph road about a mile in length that runs from the I-94 exits onto south bound Telegraph and ends at the top of a slight hill at the Ecorse road overpass.
On the West side of Telegraph at that spot is a store where the traffic cops would station themselves in a convenient driveway where with the use of a radar gun they could catch any driver exceeding the speed limit in this stretch of roadway.
Of course speeding is against the law and drivers who willingly exceed the speed limits causing potential harm to others should be ticketed. And there are plenty of areas throughout the city where more traffic enforcement would be a help. The problem with this area is the I-94 exits. After driving the freeway where the speed limit is 70 miles an hour for several hours or more it would not be unusual for a driver to take a minute or two to realize he or she was now in a 45 MPH speed zone and adjust their speed.
Traffic Enforcement Should Be Aimed At Safety Not Fund Raising
If the area they were entering had heavy foot traffic or many businesses where heavy traffic might cause unusual high traffic incidents then that would be a good reason to use heavy traffic enforcement in the area.
However this particular area is a long stretch with one motel on the west side, and a gas station and equipment rental on the east side and not much else. I seldom see foot traffic in the area. While I have not checked the city accident reports I do live nearby and have never seen an accident in the area.
This would leave one to believe that the only reason for the extreme level of traffic enforcement was the ability to snatch drivers who had just exited the freeway and momentarily were exceeding the 45 MPH speed limit. Just a few feet past the Ecorse overpass is a traffic signal and traffic begins to get heavy here which would automatically slow down the errant driver.
However it would seem that traffic officers are taking advantage of this short piece of highway for no other reason than the ability to write expensive speeding tickets without much effort. This does not seem to be an effort to stop excessive traffic accidents or pedestrian injuries. There are no outward signs for the use of all of this traffic enforcement in the area.
A Simple Sign To Solve A Problem
Just south of the I-94 exits there is one very small, easily missed traffic sign to alert drivers that the speed limit is 45 MPH. If the city government’s intention was to slow down this traffic to keep everyone safe it would be a simple matter to petition the DOT to place a larger traffic sign in the area.
But of course that would make the traffic officers job much more difficult and they might not be able to write as many speeding tickets which I have read run about $150.00. I have not verified this cost. But as an ex police officer it is very apparent to me what is or was taking place in the area.
A police officer as any other working individual tends to do their job using intuition, training and their personal life experience. Of course if they wish to remain on the job they will have to follow orders. Perhaps these overzealous traffic officers were directed to write as many tickets as possible in any way they could to help cure the overdrawn city budget. I often wondered why officials or judges seeing all of these tickets coming from the same area would not be curious as to the reason.
Police Officers Are Human and Not Robots
My purpose here is not to place blame. I do not have sufficient facts to do that. But because of my personal police experience in Taylor I do have some feelings about traffic enforcement that affected the way I handled traffic violations during my days of patrol duty.
One of the very first senior officers I was placed with as a new rookie was a guy who for unknown reasons never witnessed a traffic violation no matter how minor that he did not take as a personal affront. He acted as though the city roads where his kingdom and woe to anyone who would dare to commit a traffic offense in his presence.
One November afternoon while riding with him we witnessed a vehicle make an improper left turn. As if on a mission the emergency lights came on and we were in hot pursuit of this villain. I was directed to write my very first traffic ticket and issue it to a very upset lady who was actually in tears.
We moved on and several days later I received a letter at the station from this woman explaining how this ticket I had given her was going to ruin Christmas for her children. She was sure she had done nothing wrong and wondered how I could be so heartless. While this had a serious effect on me it did not cause my senior officer any distress.
I actually considered sending a check to the lady for the amount of the ticket. However at this particular time I was a brand new officer. I had only been on the department for about two months having left a well paid skilled trades job at an automotive foundry.
It had only been a few weeks earlier when I received my first city paycheck and wondered if we were going to get paid twice a week. I was quickly informed that no this was the total pay for a weeks work. With children of my own and a wife that was still wondering why I left a well paid job to go play cops and robbers there was not much chance of finding any extra cash.
I carried this experience for a long time. I am sure it affected the way I treated traffic enforcement. Of course I was not a traffic officer so I was not under any serious demands to write tickets. However a few months later I was dispatched to handle a minor traffic accident.
Nothing serious. Two vehicles had attempted to violate the laws of physics and occupy the same small area at the same time and the result was a minor fender bender. One driver who all indications appeared to be the most likely cause of the accident mentioned that she had been shopping in preparation for a world wide trip and may have been distracted.
The city had recently issued an order to the police department that any accident must have a ticket issued to the offending driver. I mentioned this to the lady and offered that I was sorry to possibly ruin her trip preparations with a traffic ticket but orders were orders She did not seem upset but after leaving the scene I realized that she had kept my pen that I let her use to write down some information from the other driver.
No big deal except this was a rather expensive pen that I normally would not use while on duty. While a little upset I was extremely surprised a few months later to receive a package from the lady containing not only my pen but brochures from many of the places she, her husband and my pen had visited during their trip.
Thinking about the above mentioned speed trap I can’t help but be reminded of the stories related to me by some loveable old characters who before Taylor became a city were elected officials known as Wayne County Constables.
These crusty old law enforcement officers had to retain their jobs by convincing enough citizens to vote for them every few years. One method they found very helpful in fund raising was making use of the hand operated traffic signal located at one of the early Taylor fire stations.
These signals could be switched from within the fire station to stop traffic when the engines had to make an emergency run. The constables while being sworn officers of the law were at the same time resourceful politicians who were not about to let a good traffic signal go to waste.
Acting as a team one constable would wait inside the fire station and switch the traffic signal to red just as an unsuspecting motorist passed and was not able to stop. The second constable would then pull over this “offender”.
The motorist would be advised that while he had broken a very serious traffic law that would require an expensive summons to be issued the constable was an understanding soul and was sure it would be alright to forego the ticket if the motorist could see fit to purchase a ticket for some raffle or other function which would in turn help the city to elect the proper authorities.
Wayne County Constables in Taylor while not yet fossilized have gone the way of the dinosaur and no police officer worth his badge would engage in such tactics. However it would appear that some city governments unable to convince residents that more millage is necessary to balance budgets that have in many cases become overburdened because of bad management, are not above sending their traffic enforcement units out to collect funds from the citizens by other methods that are none the less questionable.