NBC12 study reveals Richmond-area "speed traps"

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you've ever been pulled over for speeding, you know how frustrating it is when the police seem to come out of nowhere. NBC12 found out where they like to hide.

By the time you see the laser beam eyes of Trooper Chris Putnam, he's already locked in.

"When they pop that hill, that's the best time to get 'em," Putnam said, pointing out one of the most effective spots to catch speeders. More on that in a moment.

Chris patrols the interstates, and he writes a fair amount of tickets. What makes him so good is not just a steady hand, or a $3,000 laser device. He knows ahead of time, exactly, where to be.

"This is a great spot, right here. Get a lot of speeders," Putnam said.

We're standing along Interstate 95, a mile north of Willis Road in Chesterfield. It is a stretch of highway notorious for speeding, but far from the only such location.

"There are definitely specific places," Putnam said.

Virginia State Police don't often talk about what drivers derisively call "speed traps," making their precise locations somewhat of a mystery.

That is, until now.

Squeezed into folders lining the walls of local courthouses, are all the tickets ever written over the past several months. Neither the police, nor the clerks keep a searchable computerized database on speeding. It's all on paper. And so, over three days, we sifted through as many State Police tickets as we could find in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Richmond. Then, we logged all the numbers into a computer.

The effort took hours. Traffic tickets are mixed in with thousands of other General District Court files. They are not stored separately.

Our diligent, if not scientific, research revealed five specific places on Interstate highways you're most likely to be caught speeding: In Henrico, I-95 at I-295. In Richmond, I-195 at Patterson Avenue and I-95 at Bryan Park. In Chesterfield: I-95 at Willis Road, and I-95 at Route 10.

We brought our findings to the man who oversees the radar effort.

"We have a major issue with crashes related to speed," said Sgt. Scott Downs of the Virginia State Police.

Downs said these hot spots all have something in common: They make it safe for troopers to pull out, catch up, and pull drivers over safely.

"They have to work in a location where the troopers are safe in doing that job," Downs said.

As our study confirmed, that makes interchanges and straightaways near populated areas ideal for running radar.

"As you can see, you have this long straightaway here, three lanes of traffic, so you can pick any lane you want," added Trooper Putnam at the I-95/Willis location.

Putnam has been known to crank out 45 tickets in a day, some of which are for violations other than speeding. But now that the seemingly secret hiding spots are exposed, if he writes fewer, that's not exactly a problem.

"We want people to slow down in these areas. We want people to obey the laws," Downs said.

Important note: Virginia State Police cited 205,606 drivers for speeding in 2009, down from 223,208 the year before. Due to reasonable time limitations, it was not possible to locate every ticket. The map included in this story reflects clusters of tickets written on Interstates and major highways in Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield mostly during mid to late Summer 2010.

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