State ranks the hotspots where many drivers put pedal to floor
By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter
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WASHINGTON STATE PATROL
The state Department of Transportation is using speed-detecting devices under roadways to, in part, help decide where to station troopers.
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You may not always get ticketed if you speed on the state's highways, but you don't go undetected.
Embedded in miles of roadways are small wire coils that generate electrical pulses used to record your speed when your vehicle passes over them.
Every three months, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) issues a quarterly speed report using that data.
According to the latest report, the section of roadway with the highest percentage of speeders is Mile 111 on Interstate 5 at Lacey, Thurston County, where 40 percent of all drivers were recorded barreling down the highway at least 5 mph over the posted speed limit.
That doesn't surprise Jim McCallum, who builds hot rods in Olympia.
"It's gotten crazy here," he said. "What we need to do is nick them [the speeders] and nick them harder. Fine the hell out of them."
No. 2 on the speedy list is Highway 3 at Silverdale, Kitsap County; followed by Interstate 90 at Issaquah; I-5 at Fife, Pierce County; and Highway 2 at Chattaroy near Spokane.
Using the data, the DOT also identifies the top 10 locations where drivers speed 90 mph or faster — a dubious distinction that has led the State Patrol to dub these drivers members of the "90-mile-an-hour club."
The top spot for club members is Interstate 90 near milepost 14 at Issaquah, where 8,813 vehicles were clocked going more than 90 mph during the first quarter of the year. That was followed by locations on I-5 at Fife and Woodland, Cowlitz County, and on I-90 at Preston.
No. 5 on the list is a stretch of I-5 north of Marysville, where the speed limit is 70 mph. No. 5 actually is an improvement, said Trooper Kirk Rudeen, who polices that area of the freeway, which used to be No. 3 on the list.
He's not sure why speeds there are so high, but it might be because drivers are leaving a 60-mph zone and entering a 70-mph one.
"They're starting to kick it up," he said. "They have an open road ahead."
The DOT's quarterly report shows more than 3,900 vehicles exceeded 90 mph on that section of I-5. That's a small number, relative to traffic volume, but it's still significant, Rudeen said.
"All it takes is one vehicle at that speed to lose control, and it's a fatal collision," he said.
Last year, he said, the State Patrol stopped 11,764 cars for speeding in an 11-mile stretch of freeway north of Marysville. In 2005, the number was 8,000.
Because of stepped-up enforcement, he said, the number of collisions has been reduced by 23 percent and fatalities cut in half.
While the state has 142 traffic recorders monitoring its roadways, the speed report was based on a sampling of 45 of them. The sites represent the most frequently traveled stretches of highway where posted speeds are either 60 or 70 mph.
The data goes to the State Patrol's eight district commanders, who use it in deciding where to station troopers.
The Patrol says it can't identify the speediest driver it's ever nabbed. But the recent arrest of two drivers going 141 mph, one right behind the other on I-5 in Snohomish County, is high on the list, said Brian Ursino, assistant chief in charge of field operations for the Patrol.
The state has been collecting speed data since 1985 because of a federal mandate, said Alice Fiman, with DOT.
"In the old days there was less science [in] how to deploy troopers," Ursino said. "Now things are extremely data-driven. Our goal is to reduce injuries, collisions and deaths."
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org