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Old 09-12-2013, 05:45 AM   #1
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Traffic Law Enforcement Question

I have a question for members of the forum who have a working history with traffic law enforcement. This may seem like a silly question but here goes. I know, "do you want some cheese with that whine?".

I just finished a 500 mile interstate highway tow yesterday. I know most of us have the same experience on our interstate highway journeys. On rural stretches of the interstate (in the eastern US) drivers are mostly well behaved and the state police do a pretty good job monitoring and enforcing traffic laws. As you approach an urban area driving conditions become insane. Incredible reckless driving behavior by many and a general white knuckle driving experience with almost no police presence / enforcement. Why do local and state police departments appear to refuse to attempt to enforce traffic laws on urban interstate highways? You would think the income from fines would exceed the cost of putting police in the field enforcing the traffic laws. And the general public would live much safer lives. This is a condition that has been happening long before the present recession so I do not see it as a recession driven issue.

The one exception I have noted in my experience was the Milwaukee area about 6 years ago. I spent a year working in Milwaukee and at the time law enforcement was very active on the urban interstate highways. At that time driving in Milwaukee was very pleasant. On a recent trip to Milwaukee police were not active on the highways and driving conditions had become similar to the rest of the eastern US.

I know one answer is to just avoid urban interstate highways and that is what I do when I can.

Whining over.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:39 AM   #2
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And the general public would live much safer lives.
Surprisingly that may be an untrue statement.

Ever see a traffic accident along a stretch of Interstate highway inside city limits during rush hour? Remember how traffic would be backed up for miles as three lanes of traffic choke down to two when everyone shifts over a laneó as many states require you to do for a stopped emergency vehicle? And how everyone slows down to see what's going on because they want to know WHY they were stuck in traffic? How they make repeated improper lane changes jockeying for position to get past the bottleneck faster? And how they speed up again after they get past, to a faster speed than before, to make up for lost time?

Now imagine that happening dozens of times a day on EVERY stretch of Interstate inside a city's limits, whenever someone is pulled over for reckless driving. Especially if the offender isn't already in the right-hand lane and has to be pulled over across multiple traffic lanes. And/or has to be chased down through heavy traffic because he wouldn't pull over and used the traffic around him as obstacles to prevent pursuit.

The safest thing to do just may be to ignore reckless driving on urban Interstates unless it causes an accident, lest you create the very accidents you're trying to prevent.

I'm not in law enforcement. However, I used to work with a retired police officer, and that was the rationale he provided when I asked him the same question.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:55 AM   #3
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I think we just don't have enough cops in Maryland, or they are busy with other crime. I've had two hellish commutes to work this week, yesterday and today, from annoying aggressive drivers, including several near-accidents.

When I was visiting Indiana this summer, I was impressed by how many unmarked cop cars they had. And I was impressed by how everyone was driving sedately and nicely. There's probably a correlation. I suspect Protagonist is correct - if we suddenly stepped up enforcement, we'd see what he said - but I also suspect after people realized that they're probably not going to get away with whatever crime they'd drive a bit more sensibly, and the problem he described would go away after a while - we'd establish a new "normal" that's equivalent to the normal we have now, but theoretically safer.

I know I wouldn't do 75 mph in a 65 mph zone if I didn't think there was a zero percent chance of being pulled over for it, and I think that mentality is what drives it - there's essentially zero chance of being pulled over for speeding, violating HOV rules, weaving in and out, or any of the other dangerous stuff we see, and there's a mentality that accidents only happen to other people, and death rates in accidents are declining. So why wouldn't people start breaking the law?
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Old 09-12-2013, 08:10 AM   #4
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Not to start a fight, but yeah, that is just what we need: More cops, laws, courts, and fines.

Folks seem to forget that multiple lane highways are supposed to be keep right, except to pass.

Sorry, but you have hit one of my more sensitive sore spots. Folks that drive side by side across two or more lanes of traffic.

If one wants to travel slowly, move to the righthand lanes and do your thing.


Rant over.


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Old 09-12-2013, 08:23 AM   #5
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I see plenty of enforcement in the smaller towns along the I-95 corridor

I suspect lack of resources might have more to do with it than anything. When you get closer to town the police have all the in town stuff to take care of, like burglaries, bank robbers, pedophiles, drugs, school crossing duties, etc.

I have several friends that are LEOs across the spectrum and that is their one common complaint is not enough people to do what needs to be done.

In NC they will run a specific operation to target things like aggressive driving, but those are usually limited to a couple of times a year, the rest of the time we have to fend for ourselves.

I use a variety of strategies to avoid issues like you described; avoid them by taking the scenic routes, avoid certain times of day or pull over and wait it out.

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Old 09-12-2013, 08:31 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by jdalrymple View Post
Not to start a fight, but yeah, that is just what we need: More cops, laws, courts, and fines.

Folks seem to forget that multiple lane highways are supposed to be keep right, except to pass.

Sorry, but you have hit one of my more sensitive sore spots. Folks that drive side by side across two or more lanes of traffic.

If one wants to travel slowly, move to the righthand lanes and do your thing.


Rant over.


JD
I assume this was directed at me. "Keep right" doesn't BEGIN to address the traffic problems around the larger cities.
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Old 09-12-2013, 08:44 AM   #7
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To answer your question, and I am no way connected to law enforcement, but different departments have different jurisdictions. Highway Patrol is usually responsible for interstates and federal highways. City police patrol city streets and sheriffs departments patrol rural areas. City police and sheriffs seem to ignore drivers exceeding speed limits on the interstates
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Old 09-12-2013, 09:14 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skater View Post
I assume this was directed at me. "Keep right" doesn't BEGIN to address the traffic problems around the larger cities.
Only the part about more enforcement being the solution. Imagine trying to work a cop car through traffic running 65 mph in 2 to 6 lanes, trying to stop one car in a sea of 1000.


Talk about a traffic jam.


The following is simply my opinion, and not addressed to anyone:

Certainly there are more issues than lane usage.

A better explanation of my position might be to say folks need to be a bit more observant and a little less worried about what traffic laws the other guy might be breaking.

Driving side by side with other traffic, while staying exactly at the speed limit might be technically the law, but it is simply not the real world.

Pass and move over.

In my opinion, if the "fast lanes" were open, no one would be weaving.


Put down the phone, don't mess with the GPS or the XM radio.

Move with the flow of traffic, and allow those driving faster to pass.


Flame Away.

Regards,

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Old 09-12-2013, 09:59 AM   #9
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We don't live near traffic congestion but when we have to travel through it, it is automobile hell. Perfectly good people coaxed into acting like maniacs because that is the norm.

On remote roadways in the west people still give a friendly wave when they meet another motorist. Quite the opposite of personal gestures used near the metro.

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Old 09-12-2013, 10:45 AM   #10
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Only the part about more enforcement being the solution. Imagine trying to work a cop car through traffic running 65 mph in 2 to 6 lanes, trying to stop one car in a sea of 1000.
I do see people pulled over on the DC beltway from time to time (unfortunately, never people who I have witnessed doing something idiotic). Presumably the cops have training on how to do this.

Quote:
Pass and move over.

In my opinion, if the "fast lanes" were open, no one would be weaving.
...

Flame Away.
No flames, I just think there's too much traffic to be compressed into the three lanes (for example) we'd have left. Yes, it would help, I agree, but I don't think it would solve the problem.

Your other comments are good, but not the root of the problem either - yes, there are people who aren't paying attention out there, but most of the drivers I see are paying attention; otherwise we'd have a major accident every day on our commute.

I often wish I had a dash camera for recording my commute. I'd have new examples of aggressive or stupid driving on video every day (not from my driving though I admit I've made some mistakes too); we really do see that much of it. And I'm not talking about a mild, "Oh, he pulled in front of me, woe..." I'm talking about ridiculously stupid crap that amazes me that we don't see more accidents.

(Sorry, I'm not in law enforcement. But it's a hot topic for many people, for such obvious reasons.)
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Old 09-12-2013, 11:14 AM   #11
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In the greater St. Louis area we have multiple jurisdictions covering the Interstates. Highway patrol covers the fringes of the metro area and the rural areas. County police overlap municipal coverage. Municipal coverage within their local jurisdiction. Within the St. Louis City limits, they have a specific division for traffic enforcement, and another group, along with the highway patrol that handles commercial enforcement. Lots of possibilities.

Problem is, that even with all this enforcement around, most of it other than the dedicated traffic divisions, patrol the city and municipality streets also. So enforcement is usually a radar setup and the bad driver getting caught by an enforcement vehicle happening to be in the vicinity.

Occasionally the different agencies will get together and do a concentrated effort on one Interstate, but those are few and far between. So with the traffic load on the Interstates those bad drivers just disappear into the mass of cars...until they cause problems.

I remember several years ago when visiting Nashville, I encountered a drunk driver on the Interstate near the Opryland Hotel. I was behind the car which was driving below the speed limit and severely weaving. I dialed 911 and identified myself and the situation. I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher and behind the drunk driver. The person was apparently headed in the same direction as I was, so we spent about 10 minutes on the phone. I id'ed the license tag and was giving them a running commentary. The person exited off the highway onto a 4 lane road. She finally went into a residential area and I identified the street. At that point still no police. I went on my way at that point. Fast forward a half hour and I am now returning. Police cars around the area where she turned into the residential street. Apparently the police never got there and she had just turned out of the residential street and hit two cars. Still can't believe we couldn't get anyone out to get this person prior to her causing this accident. But it speaks to the fact that the cities just don't have enough police to pay attention to the Interstates. Too many other things going on.

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Old 09-12-2013, 11:46 AM   #12
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On the I-95 stretch between Fredricksburg VA and DC, there are occasionally "rolling road blocks" with three to four marked State Trooper cars running abreast at about 60 mph with yellow flashers on. Just a friendly reminder to slow down and be sane.

I-95 has never been my favorite road, and whenever time permits I choose an alternate route, but when I have to go around DC or Baltimore's beltways I prefer to do it at 4:00 AM.

I definitely know that locally the presence of police giving tickets goes UP towards the end of the month. There have to be quotas, regardless of what anyone says to the contrary.

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Old 09-12-2013, 11:55 AM   #13
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Perhaps some new technology in the future will help bring sanity to the urban interstate driving experience. My personal observation is that the norm in an urban area is the traffic flows at 70 mph or greater in a 55 zone. If someone is in the fast lane doing 75 mph, there is someone on his bumper wanting to do 80 mph etc... etc... etc... The sense of mortality, for too many on an urban interstate, appears to generally be equal to a teenager with no fear of death or debilitating injury. It will be interesting to see how history books in the 22nd century will reflect US highway transportation trends in the 21st century.
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Old 09-12-2013, 12:15 PM   #14
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Perhaps some new technology in the future will help bring sanity to the urban interstate driving experience.
Don't count on it. Even the most technologically-advanced mode of traffic control, trains, is not without its moments of insanity. Each and every train is tracked in real time by satellite, with the engineers following precise in-cab instructions from a central dispatcher, and they still end up colliding.
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