Monday, May 28, 2007

Do you speed? Why not?

If a top cop in McHenry County speeds, why shouldn’t you?

Several years ago one of the top McHenry County law enforcement officials told me how fast people drive in Wisconsin, adding that he “had to” drive 85MPH just to keep up with them. Wisconsin’s maximum speed limit on highways is 65MPH, so I immediately wondered why a top cop is speeding 20MPH over the posted speed limit instead of driving at the speed limit in the right lane! He didn’t “have to” speed. He didn’t “have to” keep up with them. He “chose” to do so, thereby violating the lawful speed limit and his oath of office.

On Sunday mornings at 6:00AM on Star 105.5 and Y103.9 is a community service program called Northwest Spectrum, hosted by Stew Cohen.

On May 27 Stew interviewed Capt. Jeff Hedrich of the Illinois State Police (District 2, which includes McHenry County) and Undersheriff Gene Lowery of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. The topic was speeding and traffic violations.

During the short program, which begins just before 6:00AM, Stew mentioned the driver who in January was clocked by the Illinois State Police on Kishwaukee Valley Road at 150MPH.

Both Capt. Hedrich and Undersheriff Lowery “went soft” on traffic violators. Instead of hammering drivers for their willing disobedience of traffic laws, they were gentle and without force during the program. It was a PSA of which their superiors would be proud, and it changes nothing.

I am filing a Freedom-of-Information Act Request with the State Police for information about the Kishwaukee Valley Road speeding violation and will check court records for action and fine amounts. I tend to read the Northwest Herald pretty carefully for items of this nature, but I missed it.

I have sent the following email to them, with copies to Sen. Althoff and Reps. Tryon and Franks:

“I heard Sunday morning's interview that was broadcast at 6:00AM (when the people who needed to hear it were asleep), and I was sorry that you didn't hammer the traffic violators for what they really are. Drivers today ignore traffic laws, because they have not been rigorously enforced for years.

“You are right that "education" is the key. Writing traffic tickets one-at-a-time will never fix the horrendous problem that exists today. A cooperative effort by local police and sheriffs, IDOT, the Tollway, the Illinois State Police and the Secretary of State's DMV is needed. How simple and cheap it would be to put driving safety messages on the rear of public vehicles. I have also suggested driver education messages on envelopes used by the DMV.

“I observe all traffic laws. I drive the speed limit on all roads. I stop at red lights. I prepare to stop when approaching a stale green light. I must be on my guard that I am not rear-ended if I stop when a light changes. I don't use a handheld cell phone.

“I am a frequent target of road rage because I drive at the speed limit in the right lane on the Tollway. I have been passed by drivers who leave the right lane to use exit and entrance lanes to pass me on the right and I have been passed on the right shoulder. I am harassed when I drive at the speed limit on two-lane and four-lane highways throughout McHenry County.

“I am frequently passed in no-passing zones because I am "poking" along at the posted speed limit.

“I favor use of rolling blockades, unmarked cars, aircraft, PhotoRadar and a crackdown on drivers who fail to display front license plates, obscure front and rear license plates with tinted lens, and operate vehicles with illegal front heavily-tinted side windows. These are the speeders, reckless drivers, tailgaters, red-light runners.

“More publicity is needed regarding driving violations. Court Supervision should be terminated. All convictions should be reported to the Secretary of State's office.

“One other thing: police officers, deputy sheriffs and politicians should obey all traffic laws, including speed limits. When I am passed by a cop or a legislator who is just "going down the road" at 15 (or more) over the speed limit, I identify this as a primary cause of disobedience by the rest of the driving public.”

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