Thursday, March 28, 2002

Cape speeding tickets add up

Published in the Current

If everyone who has received a traffic ticket in Cape Elizabeth this year pled guilty and paid the fines, the money heading into state coffers would be $5,907.

Of that, Cape residents would pay $3,792, or 64 percent.

The town does not get any of the money from traffic tickets, according to Town Manager Michael McGovern.

The Violations Bureau in Lewiston collects the ticket money, and a spokeswoman there said nearly all of the money collected goes into the state’s general fund.

Two-thirds of Cape’s traffic tickets are for speeding, according to police records. Other summonses are issued for offenses like driving without a current inspection sticker, failure to register a motor vehicle and failure to produce insurance.

Traffic stops occur most often on the town’s major roads, including Route 77, Mitchell Road, Spurwink Avenue, Scott Dyer Road and Shore Road. And the police watch certain areas.

“There’s regular spots that we have problems with continuously,” said Police Chief Neil Williams. “We try to concentrate on residential areas.”

But the fact that there are only so many officers on duty at once means most of the stops happen while they’re just driving around town.

The cars are equipped with moving radar, which means police can check your speed without having to stop their own cars.

“It makes us mobile,” Williams said.

The town has problems with speeding especially during spring and when school starts again, but there are always people driving too fast, Williams said.

Nobody really knows what towns are the toughest on speeders. The Violations Bureau does not compile statistics of which towns send in the most tickets or the largest number of fines. The Maine State Police said they have no idea.

At the Scarborough Police Department, they asked around the office and came up with Saco and Biddeford as tough towns. But the Biddeford Police Chief was surprised to hear it. He did say his patrol cars have front and rear radar that can catch speeders ahead of or behind a police car.

A web site called the Speed Trap Exchange ( lists user submissions identifying Falmouth, Yarmouth and Oakland, near Waterville, as towns not to speed in.

Most Cape Elizabeth ticket recipients reached by the Current did not want to talk about it. “Why would I do that?” asked one Cape man when he was asked if he would speak about his ticket.

But Jeff Curran of Mitchell Road is a ticket recipient who was willing to talk. He got pulled over for speeding on Route 77 in February. Curran has lived in town all his life and has a landscaping business that takes him all over town with his truck and trailer.

“I almost feel I have the right (to speed), but I know I don’t,” he said. Part of it comes from familiarity with the surroundings.

“Most people that live here know the streets,” Curran said. But he knows people complain on residential roads, where houses are closer to the street.

And part of the urge to speed comes from seeing other drivers. “I know all the cops. I see them going fast too,” Curran said.

But traffic has increased in town, and that means speed limits have to be more strictly enforced. “Now that there’s more traffic, you have to slow the traffic down,” Curran said.