Letters to the Editor

More letters on speeding

My letter is in response to the "Speeders race through loopholes" article where Mr. Burlingame has no points on his record after speeding 19 times. I received a speeding ticket driving down a very steep Lassiter Mill/St. Mary’s Street with my foot on the brake when I drove into a school zone. My record was clean and I am not a speeder.

I explained I did not even live on this side of town and I was caught off guard by the sign seconds before he pulled me over and was on my way to the dentist. I explained I usually walk to work in downtown but I received a ticket and was told I could contest in court. After noticing that there was no warning that the speed was changing, no notice of a school zone ahead and after noticing that the actual school zone sign was (and still is) blocked by tree limbs until you are right there at it I did decide to contest this ticket.

The school he stopped me in front of had also been in classes for 40 minutes; there were no children, buses, etc. I thought they would understand and drop the charge. I thought this was easy; I had no record so I did not get a lawyer. I took pictures of the blocked sign and the street to show there was no warning of speed change. I took pictures of other school zone signs that had warnings (including this one in the other direction) and I pointed out that this was the only school zone that I could find in Raleigh that did not have a school zone ahead warning. I lost the case and this guy got off; I guess justice only prevails when you have a lawyer?

After my case before the 2006 school year started I spoke with the person in charge of school zone signs and he said if the speed changes there should always be a school zone ahead sign. He had one put up the next day.

Jacqueline Pleasants

Raleigh

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Regarding your series on speeding, if the real interest were to reduce accidents, we would have a lot more citations for following too close, a major causes of accidents but harder to get easy cash from.

We have the technology for computerized speed governors for cars that would make cars keep to speed limits and eliminate dangerous speeding and speeding citations. That won’t happen because someone makes too much money for court costs and fines.

God bless the officers who keep our roads safe.

Anthony Cox

Garner

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I believe we should just leave the speeders alone. They are actually good for society. They are increasing the state's revenues and contributing a regular supply of their organs for transplants. The State of Florida proved this in the recent past. They removed the requirement for motorcylists to wear helmets and the number of organ donors more than tripled. Think and pray for all of the decent deserving people who would not get organs donated by the undeserving if we were to actaully get speeders under control.

(Organs that can be transplanted do not carry over the IQ of the donor, so they are safe for use by anyone).

At the current rate, over 40,000 are killing themselves each year. This many organs would help the recovery of many of our military men and women who deserve the best world's best medical care. It is their mission to protect oil interests for those who keep using more gasoline at high speeds than necessary. Let them kill themselves for the good of the rest of us. (Military should get first choice and 40,000 per year is more than enough to go around for them).

I will do my part. I will pledge my votes to judges who let violators go free. After all, I may need an organ transplant sometime in the next few years.

I will pressure the Department of Transportation to paint the word Kamikaze in the far most left lane of all highways. Only suicidal motorists will be allowed in the lane. EMS trucks will be parked every 20 miles so they can harvest the organ crop in a timely manner.

I am also going to save money on my next automobile purchase. I will order it without a speedometer (and directional signals). Then if I am ever picked up, I won't have to lie to the judge. I can say, judge, your honor, I don't even have a speedometer. This will never happen though since I will continue to obey posted speed limits regardless of the number of gesturing drivers in adjacent lanes. When they hold up the "I'm number one finger" and honk, I'll just smile knowing that real soon, not only will I have their finger, I will have their kidney, liver, and heart.

Bruce Northcutt

Raleigh

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Thanks so much for this N&O series concerning speeding on North Carolina roads. I hope that our legislators take notice. Speeding has become a serious problem on our state's highways. It is almost impossible to drive the posted speed limits in this state without being in fear of your life. We are not held accountable by the courts.

If the courts are overwhelmed, or if district court judges, who are elected, fear the voters, then our state legislators should step in and ease this burden. For example, what about setting up traffic courts that are led by a magistrate? Let the General Assembly set the bounds as to how these cases can be disposed. No more falsely reducing speeding tickets to improper equipment or dismissing outright after you are caught red-handed for speeding. If a person has a clean record, and deserves a break, then these traffic courts can use something like a PJC. At least, a PJC will give some incentive not to walk out of court and start speeding again.

Please continue to report on this subject beyond the series itself and keep the momentum going. Because if you don't, the people who can make a difference will forget and it will be business as usual.

Greg Cox

Sanford

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I have found your recent series of articles on speeding to be quite interesting given a current situation that I have found myself in. I am a resident of Chapel Hill. In January of this year, I was given a ticket for speeding in Pennsylvania while on a business trip for allegedly going 81 mph in a 65 mph zone. I was not the individual who was actually speeding at the time—there was a vehicle that was passing me up that was speeding, and the Pennsylvania state trooper [who was traveling in the opposite direction at the time of the alleged violation], pulled me over after coming across the median for pursuit.

Because it would have been prohibitively expensive to travel back to Pennsylvania to contest this ticket, I paid the $157.00 ticket charge but did not sign the back of the ticket where you enter a guilty plea. About two months after having paid the fine to Pennsylvania, I received a letter from the North Carolina Department of Transportation informing me that my license was being suspended for 30 days because I had been convicted of speeding more than 15 mph over the speed limit in another state. I also would have to pay a $50.00 fine to get my license back at the end of the 30-day period. The law that states this is NC General Statute 20-16(a) & 20-23.

Aside from the many constitutional law issues that this application of North Carolina law obviously poses, I find it ironic that all of those accused of speeding in North Carolina get their “day in court,” while those that live in North Carolina but get accused of speeding outside of North Carolina are penalized twice—once by having to pay a fine to the other state and then again by having to have their license suspended and pay an additional fine to North Carolina. In my situation, I face double jeopardy for the same alleged speeding violation, and in both instances, I do not get my “day in court.” I would imagine that your readers would be very surprised to learn that they will be penalized worse by North Carolina for speeding out of state than they are if caught speeding in-state. Ron Creatore

Chapel Hill

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In July 2006, I was stopped going east on I-540. I was puzzled. I had just gotten on the highway and gone maybe a mile before I was pulled over. The officer (a state trooper) didn't tell me why he pulled me right away. He took my information, then called me back to his car over his loudspeaker. Did I mention that I had my 5-year-old in the back seat? I didn't think it was a good idea to leave him alone on the side of an interstate, but I did as I was told. It was then that he pointed out the 97 on his clocking device. My jaw dropped. I did go down a ramp to get on the highway, but I know my speedometer didn't go above 75. He had to have clocked someone else and pulled me by mistake. When I asked him if this could have been the case, he adamantly denied that as even a possibility and launched into a long explanation dealing with tire rotation and the recent calibration of his equipment.

My son was terrified that I was going to jail. I kept reassuring him that the officer was just doing his job and tried to be a role model of how to show respect to law enforcement. Underneath my calm exterior, I was furious and worried to death I was going to lose my license for something I didn't do.

The next morning, after I calmed down, I examined the ticket and discovered he had clocked me at Creedmoor Road. I didn't even get on I-540 until Six Forks Road. It was obvious that he made a mistake. I called a couple attorneys I had been told were the best in the business. Both had horrible things to say about this particular trooper. And both advised me to plead to a lesser charge because going to trial was going to be my word against his and there was the possibility I would lose and lose my license. What? This was a simple error on the trooper's part. Why can't they just say "oops" and make it go away like at the phone company? Apparently, the law doesn't work that way.

I hired one of the lawyers, paid him $350 and had to take time off of work to sit in traffic court one afternoon a month only for the case to be continued each time. (Because of the severity of the crime, I had to be there in person.) And during all of this time, I never once met my attorney. Just talked to him for a total of about 7 minutes on the phone.

In February (7 months later), I finally got my turn. My attorney was ready. Our first consult in the hallway consisted of me explaining my innocence, the exact same story I'd e-mailed him 7 months earlier that was surely sitting in his folder. He seemed convinced, but prepared me that we may be looking at 40 hours of community service unless I wanted to risk losing my license. I wanted to stand tall on principle -- I didn't do it, I'm not going to admit that I did -- but I have two young children I need to shuffle to school and appointments and I work 30 miles away. After shedding a few tears about my fate, I said, "Okay. Preserve my license."

One other unforeseen circumstance was the trooper had mistakenly been assigned to another courtroom. My lawyer was fighting for me and the judge may have let me off completely, except without the trooper there to admit he could have made a mistake, he couldn't let me go scot-free. He did lessen the sentence to 24 hours community service to be completed by June. My lawyer assured me my insurance rates wouldn't go up and this wouldn't show up on my record.

I don't mind volunteering. I actually like giving back to the community. But everything I've done to serve out this sentence I resent with a passion. It's turning out to be a year of my life affected by this mistake. When I add it all up (attorney fee, parking, gas, lost wages), I spent $6,185 to fight something I didn't even do. And I still had to "serve time."

Stephanie Sumner

Raleigh

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