Does Alabama Fleece Travelers?

Ed/Op By: John Turner.
The U.S. State Department issues travel advisories where the physical or financial wellbeing of citizens may be threatened. AAA also does this type of service.I travel extensively throughout the United States in my motor home as well as on my Harley. I have been personal witness to such egregious behavior in the State of Alabama that I have been prompted to write to write this segment and advisory to readers.The State of Alabama has for months now sought to fleece the travelling public by the institution of monumental speed traps, faux construction zones, and egregious enforcement of speed laws by a number of methods. Many of these methods cross the line of propriety and reasonableness. These monumental speed traps with the associated devious methods just described have been employed on all major Interstates that traverse the State of Alabama. These would be Interstates 65, 59, 20 and 85.The State of Alabama has some of the most deteriorated infrastructure (highways) in the United States. They certainly do need to spend money on repairs and rebuild. Yet there are miles upon miles upon miles of “Construction Zone” speed limits, without a spade of dirt having been turned in years. Some “Construction Zones” remain in effect even after the long delayed construction period is over.

Additionally, the State institutes speed change zones in such frequency and with such short distance as to require evasive action by any driver simply to purposefully comply with their speed zone changes on these Interstates.  A driver may unintentionally violate a speed limit simply because they were blocked from a speed change notification or were actually attempting to pay attention to the traffic on the road. The Alabama State Troopers and some Counties will employ as many as 10 cruisers at specific interchanges with the express intention of catching some unaware traveler, and especially someone from outside the State.

The actions are an obvious and grotesque abuse of police power, with the sole purpose of enhancing revenue from travelers from other States, knowing that the likelihood of those people showing up in a court to challenge the issue of citations is very low. Should your heritage, accent or tag show you are not a “local” you may be in for an even higher and perhaps illegal form of scrutiny.

The Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Hugh McCall was asked to comment for these observations. As of this writing, the Director has made no comment.

The “Boss Hogg” mentality is alive and well in a State that is bankrupt politically and economically. Alabama seeks to try and balance its books on the backs of unsuspecting travelers, much as the “Stagecoach Robbers” did in the 19th century.

Summary:
Travelers should detour around the State of Alabama. In the long run your trip will be safer. Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia all have much better infrastructure, and you WILL save money.

Ride Safe and Watch out for the thieves that now wear badges

This is the response received from Col. Hugh B. McCall, Alabama’s DPS

Aug. 9, 2011Mr. Turner,I understand that you plan to issue a travel advisory tomorrow urging people to avoid Alabama highways when traveling. Our public information specialist shared with me your concerns following a recent road trip and mentioned that you would like to give me an opportunity to comment.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety’s mission is to protect and serve Alabama’s residents   — and visitors — equally and objectively, enforce state laws and uphold the constitutions of the United States and State of Alabama. Department employees are dedicated to promoting a safe and secure environment for the public by developing and implementing programs to:

  • reduce the number and severity of crashes through enforcement and education.
  • enhance traffic safety by examining driver applicants, issuing driver licenses, maintaining driving records and removing driving privileges when necessary.
  • curtail criminal activity by initiating investigations, providing investigative assistance to other agencies and apprehending criminals.
  • educate Alabamians — targeting school-aged children, in particular — regarding all aspects of motor vehicle and traffic safety, drug abuse prevention, crime prevention and other public safety issues.
  • preserve life and protect property by responding to natural disasters, riots and other emergencies to provide needed services in a timely manner.
  • serve the public with courtesy, professionalism and in fairness to all.

This department enforces Alabama traffic laws as they relate to construction zones and speed limits, but it has no direct connection to either. Both construction zones and speed limit signs fall under the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).  You mentioned “fake” construction zones being used as speed traps.  We are not aware of any “fake” construction zones, but you may want to report such spots to Tony W. Harris, ALDOT’s government relations manager. His office number is 334-242-6552. His work email is harrist@dot.state.al.us.  He also could explain how locations are selected for speed limit signs.
In addition, you may want to visit www.dot.state.al.us as well as http://aldotapps.dot.state.al.us/ConstructionBulletin. You will find ongoing information about highway improvements across the state – complete with project details, length of projects, benefits, maps and cameras at certain locations. You also will find construction schedules, work zone driving tips and the expected impact on motorists.
Finally, I bring up your concern after witnessing a string of stopped vehicles along Interstate 65.   As state troopers, we are tasked with enforcing the law and promoting highway safety. When motorists break Alabama’s traffic laws, they should expect to be stopped. Our goal at Public Safety is not to raise revenue but to raise awareness and to promote safety on our highways.
Sincerely,
Col. Hugh B. McCall
Director, Alabama Department of Public Safety

Follow up questions posed to Col. McCall

  • The Director states that it is the ALDOT that determines the speed limits and extent of construction zones. Does the Department “take advantage” of that designation even though there is no actual construction being conducted?
  • Does the Director realize that there are areas where construction has long been completed and yet the Construction Zones remain in place?
  • Are Multi-car assemblage of State Troopers at particular exits the norm in the State of Alabama?
  • If the answer to question 3 is “yes” then does that assemblage deteriorate the Department’s stated missions in other parts of the State of Alabama, or is the State of Alabama so flush with Troopers as such assemblage has no effect on the described mission of the Department?
  • Who determines the enforcement tolerance and what measures are used to determine the accuracy of the instruments involved recognizing that most vehicles speedometers have an error factor that approaches 10% in some situations?
  • Is the public’s voluntary compliance with speed laws of tantamount importance?
  • Do arbitrary and capricious speed limit determinations contribute to an attitude ofcontempt for such laws?
  • What do you suppose the traveling public thinks when it sees a multitude of patrol cars at an exit or median and/or with a string of “alleged violators” pulled over?
  • Does the director really expect this reporter to accept the notion that revenue enhancement for the State coffers is not an underlying motive?

Georgia Motorcyclists Can Use HOT Lanes Toll Free

Georgia’s State Road & Tollway Authority has started issuing the Peach Pass for use with the GA 400 tolls and the new HOT lanes on I-85.  The HOT lanes are replacing the HOV lanes on some interstates in Georgia starting with I-85, and will require a toll for their use by all vehicles except those which are exempt.  Fortunately, just as motorcycles are able to use the HOV lanes, they will be also permitted in the HOT lanes toll-free as exempt vehicles but you will need a Peach Pass device.

If you plan on using your motorcycle Peach Pass only for the HOT lanes and never for the GA 400 toll, you can contact the Peach Pass customer service center at 1-855-PCH-PASS (724-7277) and set up an exempt vehicle account free of charge, although they will require a credit card number to keep on file.  The first 30,000 Peach Pass devices are being sent out free of charge to account holders and as of this printing they still had plenty of free ones left.  If you plan to use both the GA 400 toll lanes and the HOT lanes while on your motorcycle, you will need to set up the account online with a $20.00 initial deposit – motorcyclists still have to pay the GA 400 toll like everyone else.

You can find more information online at www.peachpass.com.


Georgia Motorcyclists Ride on The Capitol To Protest Checkpoints

Over 300 motorcyclists roared into downtown Atlanta and surrounded the State Capitol Wednesday March 23, 2011 to protest the recent Georgia State Patrol motorcycle only checkpoints.

Using a $70,000 grant from the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration NHTSA, the State and local officers set up motorcycle only checkpoints on the two main interstates leading into Florida during Daytona’s spring Bike Week.

The checkpoints were located on I-95 and I-75 in the southbound truck weigh stations on Wednesday March 9th.

Newly elected ABATE State Director, Dan Forrest said he was pleased at the turnout and the diversity of the riders who joined the protest.

“(turnout)  was beyond expectations and I hope a sign of  unity in the biker community.”  Forest said.  “We had several patch club members from urban riding groups and this was far from the normal group we have attracted in the past.”

Forrest said the speakers called on the State Patrol and the Governor’s office to focus on programs that will save lives and not just profile motorcyclists.  “The central point of every speakers message was that money needs to be spent on EDUCATION of the driving public to make them aware of motorcycles. Use the media for public service announcements, bill boards, class room training for new drivers.” Forrest said.

Other speakers pointed out how the interstate checkpoints resembled police actions of  totalitarian regimes and not a free republic.

“The roadblocks are a violation of our rights and are a pure attempt at profiling. The Savannah stop had 17 GSP cars, 2 Sheriff’s cars, 1 DOT car, a van filming and photographing every biker and a helicopter. This sounds like a Border Crossing in a communist country and has nothing to do with safety.”

The State Patrol nor the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety did not respond to a request for a statement.  However, Patrol officers have indicated they will hold five more one day checkpoints throughout the year.

Forrest said ABATE of Georgia will continue to lobby against the checkpoints and added that under his leadership he hopes ABATE can become a voice for all motorcyclists and expand its mission to fight any and all legislation that unfairly targets motorcycle owners and riders.     “ABATE of Georgia has suffered through some very poor leadership over the past few years and has spent too much time and effort on the ‘Freedom of Choice ‘ bill or rather lack of it. We have been known as the helmet law people and  have been shunned by many riding groups because of that fact.”   He continued, “We have taken the first step in unity and we must continue to grow as one voice.”