Anyone who lives here has definitely seen aggressive enforcement of speed limits - especially in the last few years, and especially on the Interstate.
By BILL HETHCOCK THE GAZETTE
Here’s something to be proud of as Independence Day draws near: Colorado Springs is one of the top speed traps in America, according to the National Motorists Association.
The city ranked fourth behind Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., and ahead of Houston, Virginia Beach, Va.; Austin, Texas; Baton Rouge, La.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Fresno, Calif.
As if to celebrate the city’s speed-trap reputation, Colorado Springs police conducted an “aggressive speed enforcement activity” in the COSMIX construction zone Thursday — the day the National Motorists Association rankings came out. They gave 76 speeding tickets.
The rankings were created from the motorists association’s SpeedTrap Exchange at www.speedtrap.org. It showed 54 complaints about Colorado Springs in the past two years.
Complaints ranged from the use of unmarked cars to motorcycle cops “hiding” under bridges along Interstate 25 and behind bushes at Voyager and Jet Stream Drive. The gripes came from residents and from drivers who were just passing through and residents.
One wrote in March that police were unfairly taking advantage of a school zone on a steep hill in the Mountain Shadows area:
“There are cops constantly in the school zone around Chipeta Elementary in Mountain Shadows area. Watch out! They are not visible until too late. It’s very difficult to go from 35 mph to 20 mph in 200 ft, when going down a fairly sloped hill!”
The group, which says it represents the interests of U.S. drivers, is warning people to watch out for heavy traffic enforcement during the Fourth of July weekend, one of the heaviest travel times of the year.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness of speed traps,” association spokesman Eric Skrum said. “In too many instances, we’re seeing tickets used as a revenue source instead of a safety tool.”
That’s not the case in Colorado Springs, said Lt. Steve Tobias, who oversees the Gold Hill traffic division of the Colorado Springs Police Department. Police don’t have ticket quotas and don’t think about the potential for revenue when they pull over a speeder, he said.
“I don’t know what a speed trap is, because we don’t do those here in Colorado Springs,” Tobias said. “What some citizens call a trap, we call aggressive enforcement.”
Aggressive enforcement won the Police Department a first place award this year from the National Association for Chiefs of Police, he said. It also prevents crashes and saves lives, he added.
Colorado Springs police handed out 43,271 speeding tickets last year — 20 percent more than the 35,495 issued in 2004. The city collected about $6 million from speeding tickets in 2005.
Almost 80 percent of the tickets in 2005 were for driving 10 to 20 mph over the limit. Ten tickets, however, went to drivers going 1 to 4 mph over the speed limit.
Police focus their enforcement each year on the locations that made the previous year’s top 25 crashes, Tobias said.
That means they’re keeping an extra close watch on the intersections at Academy and Fountain boulevards, Academy and Airport Road, Platte and North Nevada avenues, Dublin and Academy boulevards and all along Interstate 25.
The motorists association works against unnecessarily low speed limits, roads with no posted speed limits, the targeting of out-of-town drivers and other practices they say are unfair to motorists.
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THE TOP 10
2. Washington, D.C.
3. Orlando, Fla.
4. Colorado Springs
6. Virginia Beach, Va.
7. Austin, Texas
8. Baton Rouge, La.
9. Nashville, Tenn.
10. Fresno, Calif.