Speed trap?

Diane Peters, Oro Valley

I am in complete agreement with Nancy Hicks, ("Tickets Cause Concern," Letters to the Editor, June 21) who believes that the Oro Valley police are harassing drivers. I would like to share my story.

Shortly after moving here, I was informed by my neighbors to "watch out for Oro Valley cops!" They informed me about the excessive amount of speeding tickets that are issued in this town. This is the reputation of the Oro Valley police and it's hardly the atmosphere for fostering good will between the police department and the citizens. I had been driving for 30 years without incident. Not one accident, not even a fender bender. I had never even hit an animal in the road. But less than one year after moving here, I was given a $135 speeding ticket for traveling 25 mph!

It turned out that there was a small portable 15 mph school zone sign on the side of the road (La Cholla) that I did not see because the sign was placed in a dip in the road and was therefore not visible as I approached it.

I took pictures of the "invisible sign" and presented it to the judge who heard my case and although he agreed that the sign was not visible, he allowed the citation to stand because I "live in the area" and I "should have known" that this was a school zone.

The town of Oro Valley was negligent for not ensuring that the 15 mph school zone signs were clearly visible to passing motorists, but rather than accepting responsibility for their error, they twisted the evidence and blamed the law-abiding citizen instead.

The speed limit on La Cholla is 45 mph, lowering to 15 mph at the intersection when school is beginning or ending for the day. The police officer stated that he had clocked me at 35 mph while in the 45 mph zone. This proves that I was not speeding. I slowed to 25 mph because I was preparing to make a left turn. This is when I was pulled over. When an officer continues to aim his radar gun at a vehicle that is traveling 10 miles under the speed limit, he has crossed the line between law-enforcement and harassment!

Since the intersection was empty as I approached it (no cars exiting the school, no school buses, no children in the crosswalk, and no crossing guard present) what I "should have known" based on visual observation was that school was not presently letting out for the day and that the speed limit was 45 mph. I should have been given only a warning, not a $135 speeding ticket.

If 25 mph is considered a dangerous speed, then Oro Valley should not post signs that state, "Keep Kids Alive - Drive 25!"

Although the judge admitted that the sign wasn't visible, the town did nothing to rectify it. The portable sign remained in the same location. During my appeal, I suggested that the town should attach a bright orange flag to the sign to increase its visibility. I have seen this done in other parts of Tucson. A year went by and no orange flag was ever installed. Now really, how expensive would this have been to do?

If Oro Valley is so concerned with the safety of school children, why didn't it immediately improve the visibility of that sign? This is when I concluded that, in Oro Valley, revenue-producing speed traps take precedence over the safety of pedestrians. And, like Nancy Hicks, I also became a nervous wreck when driving in this town. I now spend more time looking for hidden signs and motorcycle cops hiding behind a cactus than I spend watching the road in front of me.

Once I presented my case in March 2004, the town "should have known" that the 15 mph sign needed immediate modification. But it was not until December 2005, after receiving numerous complaints from other motorists who were ticketed at that intersection and complaints from parents who were concerned for the safety of their children, that the town finally admitted the problem and installed a yellow flashing warning signal at the approach to the intersection.

I'll be checking my mail for a refund of my $135.