by Alan McArthur
The Missouri Department of Transportation has been busy this year with construction zones along many places of Interstate 29 in Platte County.
Associated with those work zones are closed lanes, traffic cones and reduced speeds. The reduced speeds are sometimes missed or simply ignored by motorists.
“One of the excuses we hear is they didn't see the signs,” said D.J. Hedrick, sergeant with the Missouri Highway Patrol in Platte County. “The zones are marked way in advance. Usually drivers just are not paying attention.”
During a recent ride-along with the Missouri Highway Patrol by The Landmark, a number of tickets were handed out for speeding in the work zones. Many officers from the Missouri Highway Patrol as well as other local police departments have been patrolling the work zones to stop speeders in recent months.
The fines associated with speeding in a work zone can become substantial. The base fine for speeding in a work zone while workers are present is $250 plus the fine for the amount of miles per hour over the limit.
During the ride-along, three people were stopped for speeding in the work zone along Interstate 29 at the Todd Creek Bridge. The majority were continuing to drive the normal speed of 70 mph through a work zone with a limit of 50 mph. According to guidelines from the Highway Patrol, the fine for speeding would be $125 plus the $250 if the workers are present.
According to Hedrick, the majority of people in the work zone were speeding.
“Probably six out of 10 will be speeding,” said Hedrick.
In other zones along I-29 the number is closer to 90 percent of drivers.
Even though the number of speeders is high, Hedrick said the patrol does not pull over every speeder.
“I look for someone who is way out in front, being aggressive and passing cars,” said Hedrick. “If we started writing for all of the speeders we'd be here all day. It's kind of like fishing--you throw back the little ones and try to get that fast one.”
However, Hedrick says that with increased prices of gasoline, the number of speeders overall has reduced.
“With fuel the way it is people are not driving as fast,” said Hedrick. “We don't really see the really high speeds anymore. We do see speeders, just not really high speeds.”
The amount of time saved by driving 70 mph through the reduced speed zone, which stretches for approximately 1.6 miles, is around a minute and a half. The fines for speeding break down to more than $4 per second saved through the work zone.
Another area of concern for the Highway Patrol is an area north of Platte City along I-29 where crews have been working on the bridge over the Platte River. It also has a sign stating the fine of $250 for speeding or passing in the 50 mph zone.
During the ride-along, Hedrick stopped several cars in the area for passing in the right lane after signs saying the lane ended.
Since there were no workers present in the work zone ahead, Hedrick simply gave them a warning and explained the no passing law.
There were no speeders through the work zone because the average speed of traffic was between 13 and 14 mph.
“Our main focus is to reduce accidents. Most of the accidents lately have been in construction areas,” said Hedrick. “I wish people would be more cognizant of work zones. Just slow down and make sure to drive safely.”
While enforcing traffic laws applying to speed is important to the Highway Patrol, one of the most important issues, according to Hedrick, is motorist assistance.
One such vehicle was on the side of the road along I-29 north near the Tiffany Springs Parkway exit. The vehicle had engine troubles as the driver was trying to drop off a passenger at the airport for a flight.
After ensuring the driver had a tow truck on the way thanks to AAA Insurance, Hedrick offered to drop the man off at the airport for his flight, which was scheduled to take off within 30 minutes.
The tow truck was estimated to arrive within an hour, according to the driver, and the passenger would have missed his flight.
“Our thing is if you see something that needs to be addressed, address it,” said Hedrick. “Providing service for people is the ultimate thing.”
Another vehicle was found on the side of the road along I-29 north of the Bethel road overpass. The truck had a blown left front tire and the occupants were attempting to change the tire.
Hedrick stopped to provide assistance and check to make sure everyone was alright. As Hedrick approached, the two men outside the vehicle became increasingly agitated. One man went to the cab of the truck and retrieved a drink and cigarettes.
When Hedrick asked for their information, one man was reluctant to give his information and said he did not have his license with him. Hedrick also retrieved information from a woman who was inside the truck.
After Hedrick checked the three names through the dispatcher, two were shown to have warrants for their arrest and all three were shown to not be eligible to drive.
Hedrick then called for backup from the Platte County Sheriff's Department to assist in transporting the man and woman to the Platte County Detention Center. Hedrick arrested the first man and waited until two sheriff's deputies and another Highway Patrolman arrived to arrest the woman.
The other patrolman arrested the woman. Afterward, Hedrick checked with the other man and made sure he had someone coming to pick him up or help with the vehicle before transporting the two who had warrants to jail.
The man was arrested on a warrant for theft with a bond of $2,200 cash and the woman was arrested on a warrant with a bond of $650.
At the detention center, the two were taken into a secure area where all of their belongings are checked before they are moved into a central area to be processed by jail staff. The processing includes entering their information and taking a booking photo.
After checking in both people to the jail, the two patrolmen then returned to their vehicles to continue patrolling the work zones that night.