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Netting speeders on I-680



Published: Fri, July 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police have clocked drivers going as fast as 91 mph.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Five Youngstown Police Department cruisers line up along an Interstate-680 on-ramp like sharks waiting to feast.

They don't have to wait long.

It's 8 a.m., the morning work rush, and speeders are ripe for the picking.

Detective Sgt. Douglas Bobovnyik, 37, leads the way, zapping the zipping vehicles with a laser gun that gives him the exact speed and the distance at which the reading was taken.

He radioes the description and speed to an officer lurking about 100 yards away.

The officers are patrolling a northbound section of I-680, near Glenwood Avenue. The speed limit there is 50 mph. They target drivers going 70 or faster.

A blue Dodge Intrepid begins the frenzy by whipping by at 72 mph. A white Chevrolet Caprice is next at 79 mph.

Keeping busy: Within minutes, all five officers are busy writing tickets. It's a speeder smorgasbord and they haven't even given a glance toward the bulk of drivers moving at 55 to 65 mph.

"That didn't take long, did it?" Bobovnyik asks.

The department began targeting I-680 speeders about two months ago. Officers patrol different sections of the highway for about two hours, two or three days a week, unless they are busy responding to calls for service.

Bobovnyik said the team has written between 15 and 30 tickets each day, up to 400 a month.

Penalties: Drivers are generally penalized two points on their driver's license for each speeding ticket. Rack up 12 points and you lose your license.

Fines amount to $25, plus $60 in court costs, for those going one to 14 mph over the speed limit and $30, plus $60 in court costs, for vehicles clocked at 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit.

Drivers caught in this range can waive their right for a court appearance and mail in their ticket.

Those caught going more than 20 mph over the limit must appear in court and face fines set by a judge.

So who are the main culprits?

Typical speeder: Bobovnyik says owners of sport utility vehicles often speed, possibly because of the false sense of security they feel driving a large vehicle.

But the adage of drivers of fire-engine red cars having a lead foot also holds true.

"It seems like red cars are speeding the most," he said. "I don't know if it attracts your attention or if the red cars have something to do with the person's personality."

And it seems men and women have equally heavy feet.

Of the 16 people officers stopped Thursday, a 40-year-old woman in a black Pontiac Grand Am took the day's trophy at 85 mph. She told police she was late for work.

That's not the record for I-680. Bobovnyik said he's clocked automobiles up to 91 mph.

Making it tougher: Snagging speeders isn't always easy.

Bobovnyik said truckers give out the positions of officers across CB radio airwaves and regular motorists phone in positions to radio stations that broadcast them.

Technology such as laser gun jammers is also popular.

Bobovnyik said he had never seen one used before. Not until Thursday, anyway, when he tried to tag a white pickup truck which caused an error in his laser gun.

"He may have had a jammer," he said. "I hit it three times and I was right on him."

Besides working toward the main objective of lowering traffic speeds, such patrols also weed out people who shouldn't be driving at all.

Thursday's session turned up a woman driving without a license and someone driving on a suspended license.

"People are slowing down and that's the result we want," said Bobovnyik.

wheatley@vindy.com




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