Officers Team with Truckers to Monitor Roadways

by: Prince, Glover & Hayes Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The Associated Press


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two nurses on their way home to Walker County on Wednesday morning got more than a surprise on Interstate 65. The driver got a ticket for going 80 mph and a second ticket for failing to signal a lane change.

The ticket was courtesy of Alabama’s latest twist to catch bad drivers — spying them from the cab of an 18-wheeler.

“By the number of lane changes, I consider she is driving somewhat aggressively,” state trooper Scott Stratton said.

The motorist told Stratton she thought it was OK to go 80 and didn’t know she had to signal a lane change.

The effort launched as part of the state’s latest traffic blitz was the result of cooperation between state truck inspectors and the Alabama Trucking Association. Bad driving was spotted by a trooper riding in a tractor-trailer who then radioed to four state trooper truck inspectors on the ground to nab the offenders. It’s all part of a federal program called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks.

So far this year, there have been eight such one-day patrols across the state and two in the Birmingham area, said ATA Safety Director Gene Vonderau.

The current patrol was the first participation for the Floyd & Beasley trucking firm out of Sycamore in Talladega County, said General Manager Steve Persons. Cpl. Whit Capps rode in the cab of a Floyd & Beasley 18-wheeler traveling in front of the troopers.

The troopers targeted an 11-mile stretch of I-65 from Gardendale north, but the aggressive drivers came to them.

The female driver ticketed by Stratton, as well as numerous others, had only scowls for him.

“I never say `have a nice day’ after I’ve given a ticket,” Stratton said.

His driving pet peeves are illegal license plates and no use of seat belts. He had lots of fodder Wednesday.

He calls the tag-applied-for signs on some cars “really infuriating,” and he said it’s easy to spot those who don’t use seat belts.

“I had one guy tell me he doesn’t use a seat belt because he would be the only one hurt if he had a wreck. I asked him if he were seriously injured in the wreck, wouldn’t it affect his family and emergency services?”

A flatbed-truck driver was stopped for tailgating two different vehicles within minutes of each other — all while Stratton watched from the right lane.

All the troopers rode the right lane until an offender was reported, because the only insignia on their gray SUVs is the Alabama Department of Public Safety seal on the passenger-side door.

When stopped for tailgating, the truck driver argued that he was not that close to the vehicles.

Stratton said his method of determining tailgating is to pull up next to the offending vehicle.

“If there is room for me to go safely through in this SUV, I don’t consider it tailgating,” he said.

Not all troopers use Stratton’s method. State law says motorists must stay back 20 feet for every 10 mph they are driving.

One 18-wheeler driver being pulled over for tailgating and improper lane-changing sped up when Stratton turned on his blue light. He eventually stopped and maintained he had not seen the trooper. He was ticketed for speeding, improper lane change, no proof of trailer registration and tailgating, plus his truck was inspected.

Stratton said that, during a chase, he turns on his siren only if a vehicle doesn’t stop.

Within three hours Wednesday, the troopers had issued more than 40 tickets.

A statewide trooper blitz also began Wednesday. It ends Christmas Eve and focuses on driving under the influence, but all drivers are targeted.

DPS Director Col. Chris Murphy has said that this, the third statewide blitz of the year, is designed to alter driver behavior. But the jury is still out.


Information from: The Birmingham News,


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