Those Men in (Baby) Blue


THINKING UP WAYS of dodging the speed limit has always been one of those things that spice up a long drive through the boondocks. Keeping one eye on the highway and the other a half-mile up the road to sniff out a speed trap; perfecting the technique of hitting the brakes--but not too hard--when you see Smokey zap you with his radar gun; offering a revolutionary excuse to the trooper as he asks for your license and registration--these are all classic features of intercity travel in America.

This past summer, though, has seen the dawn of utterly humorless, downright wimpy police approaches to enforcing the speed limit.

It's one thing if the police want to bag people for flouting the 55 mile-an-hour speed limit. But it's another if they want to be sissies.

In Massachusetts and a host of other states, police have begun forming so-called rolling roadblocks. Those are walls of LTDs that straddle the highway and, cruise along at no more than 55.06 miles an hour. Unless you want to pass a State Trooper in the breakdown lane (about as bright a move as shouting "Fag!" at him), you don't have much choice about whether to drive 55. The rolling roadblock made its debut July 3 on Interstate 93.

Besides rolling roadblocks, Massachusetts State Police have also started cruising the highways in unmarked patrol cars, which can suddenly sprout flashing lights and wailing klaxons when near offending vehicles.


And in an unconscionably pusillanimous approach, the Maryland State Police have started hiding in dump trucks and yellow lawn mowers alongside the highway to catch speeders, according to The Washington Post. The federal government has been putting the heat on Maryland to crack down after a study earlier this year found 76.2 percent of drivers were speeding. That compares to 56 percent nationwide and 44 percent in Massachusetts.

One summer afternoon, Trooper 1st Class Frank Woullard was sitting by Interstate 70 in Frederick, Md., in a bright yellow, nine-ton State Highway Administration truck. Woullard's giveway tan hat sat on the seat beside him and his radar detector sat on his lap, safely out of view. Woullard didn't dare show his face to oncoming traffic--instead, he watched for speeders in the rear-view mirror.

When a green Buick passed by in the left lane doing a brisk 70 m.p.h., Woullard radioed up to his partner, who was waiting a quarter-mile up the road. The green Buick got nailed.

The driver was asked if she deserved the $40 ticket she got. "Absolutely not. It's the sneakiest thing I've ever heard of, hiding in a truck."


The 55-m.p.h. speed limit does have a lot going for it. It saves gas. It saves lives.

Still, any cop who thinks he has at least a slightly hard ass should catch you speeding the honest, old-fashioned way: by sitting in a POLICE car and pulling you over when you're driving too fast. Finding creative hiding places behind bridges, billboards and off-ramps is OK. It's part of the speeder's job to watch out for places like that.

But blocking the highway like elderly sheep and not even giving drivers the chance to speed and get caught fairly, driving cars which don't let on that they have police inside, and hiding like a Viet Cong inside an unmarked truck violate all the rules of the speeding game. Sleazy tactics like those are--pardon the pun--cop-outs.

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