Police targeting speedy drivers
By MICHELLE GANASSI
Daily American Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2008 6:01 AM EDT
Several Somerset area motorists who received speeding tickets recently may have noticed the words “Smooth Operator” at the bottom of the citation. Those words were there because the Somerset Borough Police Department is participating in a nationwide Smooth Operator program, which gives departments state funds to patrol for speeding and aggressive driving.
As part of the program, Officer David Deist set up an Electronic Non Radar Device, (ENRADD) Tuesday in the 1,000 block of East Main Street. From 2 to 6 p.m., Deist stopped 11 vehicles and wrote 19 citations, including one for driving with a suspended license. Deist is the only one licensed to operate the ENRADD device, so other officers write citations while he stops vehicles.
While the mobile device was set up near the 1,000 block, the police car was parked two blocks away and Deist stopped speeders as they traveled west down the hill. The device measures speed using a laser and wirelessly transmits the speed to a device in the police car. The device is owned by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and loaned to Somerset for the operation.
Police Chief Randy Cox said PennDOT chooses the areas that are patrolled, based on crash history and other factors. “There are only a limited amount of municipalities that qualify,” he said. In the borough, Main, Patriot, Edgewood and Center are a few of the roads that qualify. “They are generally well-traveled streets,” Cox said. Even if a motorist calls his friends to warn them about the patrols, Deist said it still serves its purpose. “The purpose is to slow people down,” he said. “If they are not speeding, then it worked.” After writing a citation, Deist gives motorists pamphlets explaining the program, the state’s seat belt laws and driving under the influence penalties.
While motorists may be upset about being stopped by police, residents who live around the patrolled areas tell him they are happy with the program, he said. Most motorists are cited for speeding. Deist has also arrested drunken drivers and one person for being absent without leave from the military during the most recent sting.
According to the program’s Web site, aggressive driving is the greatest threat people face on the road — even ahead of drunken driving. In 2006, more than 13,000 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving speeding.
Conemaugh Township and state police also participate in the program. The program started Sept. 6 and ends Sunday.
Michelle Ganassi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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