It might be a careless driver, not a speed trap
According to Louisiana State Police (LSP), last weekend alone, over 1,000 pounds of marijuana valued at $1.5 million, as well as some cocaine, was confiscated in three traffic stops between Baton Rouge and Lafayette on Interstate 10.
LSP reported that in all three cases, troopers stopped the cars after spotting improper lane usage, a broad category that includes failure to signal during a lane change or crossing the center line.
The largest of the three stops took place in the Lafayette area and revealed 586 pounds of pot. The drivers were heading east. With troopers crediting most drugs as originating in Mexico and coming across state lines with Texas drivers, we can assume that all that marijuana and the cocaine traveled through Jeff Davis Parish (JDP) during those trips as well.
A lot of drivers do not like seeing troopers on I-10 because that means they have to obey the speed limit, wear a seat belt, have updated tags, etc. – you know, follow the law. But because I-10 is mostly known as LSP territory, no one has really campaigned against that law enforcement agency’s patrols.
When it comes to sheriffs’ departments and municipal police departments, however, it is a different story.
The Louisiana Legislature’s House Transportation Committee voted 9-3 this week for a bill that would require towns that receive more than half their annual income from speeding citations to be labeled “speed traps.” Blinking signs would actually be posted to warn drivers, under a proposal heading to the full House for debate.
Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, who sponsored the bill, said if the issue is truly one of public safety, as the towns claim, signs with flashing lights will encourage people to slow down (as opposed to speed limit signs, apparently). But he said he’s opposed to towns basing their budgets on speeding tickets.
Lawmakers who voted against the measure said while they don’t support speed traps, they don’t agree with placing “a stigma” on a community.
In the past, in towns across the state, true speed traps have existed and some drivers were unfairly targeted. Some towns do have what could be referred to as “speed traps”, like speed limit signs with different speeds posted within feet of one another.
But stopping someone for speeding in an area where signs are clearly posted and the speed limit remains the same – such as Interstate 10 or a stretch of highway, for example – is not a speed trap, no matter how many people get cited in that area. For example, the Village of Fenton is located along U.S. 165, which sees steady traffic day and night thanks to its location between I-10 and a major casino. If Fenton would happen to receive more than half of its annual income from traffic fines in one particular year, does that necessarily mean Fenton has a speed trap? Or does it mean U.S. 165, with a higher traffic volume, sees more traffic offenses than one would see on a rural highway?
True, no municipality should bank on making money from traffic citations. But if people willfully disobey driving laws, why should they not be cited? Doesn’t the state want its residents and visitors to follow the law? And don’t those citations sometimes uncover bigger, more dangerous crimes, like what LSP discovered in three stops last weekend?
Towns that entertain true speed traps should be handled on a case-by-case basis, or Pylant’s bill should be more detailed in how a speed trap label is determined. If not, towns with police departments that are simply doing their jobs could suffer.
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