By Herb Perry
July 25, 2007 6:00 AM
YORK — State troopers are placing special emphasis on catching drivers who speed during the months of July and August, the two busiest months for traffic in Maine — and the most dangerous.
Called "speed details," state police track speeders with radar-equipped police cruisers, with airplanes, and with unmarked vans manned by laser operators. They concentrate speed details south of Portland, the turnpike's busiest area, with Kittery, York and Wells among the towns that get special attention.
"We run them continually, not only in the York area, but all over the state," police spokesman Steve McCausland said. "But the turnpike sees the most blatant speed offenses."
McCausland said a direct correlation exists between increased traffic and speeding, and dangerous driving on the roads.
"You would think because of high gas prices that speeds would be moderating — especially on highways. ... But there is not a week that goes by in Maine where we (don't) pull someone over going 100 mph out there," he said.
State Police Lt. Arthur Murdoch said troopers stop six to eight drivers a week traveling 30 miles above the speed limit on the turnpike, an offense called "criminal speeding." And overall, speeds are up: Vehicles used to travel the turnpike averaging 72 or 73 mph and now travel about 78 or 79 mph, he said.
While speeds are up, accidents are down 25 percent from 2005 to 2006, McCausland said, and speed details may make the highway safer. Also, where the turnpike is three lanes wide on each side, drivers have more reaction time and more area in which to work.
Southern York County, where the turnpike has been three lanes wide for decades, is one of the safest roads in the state, McCausland said.