Cut me some slack if you’ve heard this one before.
“There’s a two-word strategy to getting out of a speeding ticket.”
I thought of that old line a couple of times in the last couple of weeks when I made my way to Laurelton for the Union County West End Fair.
The Borough of Hartleton, which straddles the townships of Hartley and Lewis, apparently still has a reputation for rigorous speed enforcement.
If you’ve never driven there, the limit on westbound state highway goes from 55 mph to 35 mph in only a furlong or so. The limit is reduced where the highway is on a bit of a downhill grade.
The reduction is a little less egregious heading into town from the west. But if you’re not paying attention, you’ll be cruising at above the limit.
I haven’t seen a Hartleton officer in their usual perch, a spot across from an ice cream place, for months. Yet people still slow down to the limit all the same, sometimes less than that. A double-check this week verified that the borough, home to 250 souls, still had a police department.
The point here is that reputation goes a long way toward compliance. In this day and age, reputation can spread by old fashioned word of mouth or via computer.
Just for fun, I logged onto www.speedtrap.org.
It’s a website put up by an organization called the National Motorists Association (NMA). The NMA purports to advocate for North American motorists by working for more reasonable speed limits, privacy protection, better driver training and fair enforcement. They’re all for freedom and responsibility, but not ticket cameras, unfair taxes, revenue-motivated traffic courts, speed traps or “one size fits all” laws.
The site features links to attorneys with experience in traffic tickets, personal injury and DUI allegations. A click on a Union County link leads to the name, number and website of a Philadelphia-based attorney. The same guy pops up if you click on Snyder County. A disclaimer at the bottom says the NMA cannot guarantee that the lawyer you select will meet your expectations.
The site features a traffic law blog which looks like it gets added to regularly. Two new blog pieces were entered within this month, one written by a self-described motorcycle accident attorney, the other by a car accident attorney.
One entry noted a motorcycle rider is 26 times more likely to die in a crash than an auto driver. The other cautioned that serious repercussions loom for drivers who rent U-Haul trucks and intentionally get into crashes to claim insurance money.
But the big story at www.speedtrap.org is 80,000 user submitted entries claiming locations of speed traps nationwide and in Canada.
I first took a look years ago, as I was curious about what I’d find for Pennsylvania. I checked it out again this week after a couple of passes through Hartleton.
The site is not like I remembered. Instead of random remarks, posted like Facebook comments, I found descriptions of locations with options to vote on whether or not a given spot is a site of rigorous enforcement. I accidentally acknowledged that a place in Phillipsburg was such a speed trap. That may be a fact, except that I’ve never been there.
The most recent entry for Lewisburg is from 2010 and describes how Lewisburg police sit beside the old Bechtel’s restaurant in such a way that they are not visible until passed.
It got 15 votes affirming it as a speed trap, and three “definitely not a speed trap” votes. It’s hard to guess when the last vote was entered, but it is safe to say that there is no more Bechtel’s and Lewisburg police are now the BVRPD.
The other two spots, one on Route 15 and the other on South Third Street, were plausible as speed enforcement sites. But were they speed “traps” in the strictest sense? Hard to say, local police are not allowed to use radar for speed enforcement. Other methods, such as devices on the road, are more obvious than a radar beam.
My experience is that if a motorist is halfway observant, it’s possible to sense where police sit and wait. One tip from an attorney friend was to look for speed limit signs. If a driver claims they didn’t know the limit, the issuing officer may mention the fact that a sign indicating it was just passed.
Anyway, the information about Hartleton was just as old as what was entered for Lewisburg. The latest entry was from 2006 and basically claimed the entire length of the borough was a speed trap. Voters agreed with that assessment a total of 99 times. There was one “definitely not a speed trap” vote, but as before, it was tough to guesstimate when any of them were entered.
To sum it up, go easy out there whether you are passing through a notorious speed zone or not. Enjoy the experience of motoring while you can for autonomous vehicles are out of the concept stage and are on the horizon.
It’s only a matter of time.
FYI: Not all the speed trap reports were as old as the local ones. Some were from as recently as 2017.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at email@example.com.