Western Suburbs, IL -
“It was unfair. I felt completely singled out; trapped,” said a West Chicago man as he recounted the story of his recent speeding ticket.
Daniel Santana saw the police cars set up on the side of the road as he entered the Reagan Memorial Tollway at Route 59 in Naperville. He contends he was not driving too fast, he just happened to be the unlucky victim of a police speed trap.
Santana paid his ticket, not having the time to fight it in court. But a Web site sponsored by the National Motorist Association is giving him a chance to fight it in other ways, and it only takes a few minutes.
The “SpeedTrap Exchange” is a user-complied list of speed traps across the country.
Categorized by state and town, users can add locations to the list, comment on existing locations, or simply go in and track down just where police cars are looming in their area.
The Web site was created in 2005. Since then, thousands of speed traps have been posted. Nearly every town in the western suburbs is represented at least once (we've listed some of the "more popular" speed traps on the map below). A description of the speed trap nabbing Santana can be found under Naperville.
The NMA oversees all additions to the list, but anyone with an e-mail address is encouraged to give their own input. However, submission rules state, “comments such as ‘just drive the speed limit and you won’t get a ticket’” have no place on the Web site.
According to U.S. traffic statistics, summer is the busiest travel time of the year. With students home from school and summer holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day, more cars are out, and in turn, more speeding stops are made.
Downers Grove Police Chief Robert Porter said his department does monthly reviews of traffic data to determine which locations to spend more time monitoring.
“It’s not our job to trap anybody — our job is to enforce the law,” Porter said.
Jim Doherty, Elmhurst deputy chief of police, said the term “speed trap” has a negative connotation. He said the Elmhurst Police Department monitors traffic to keep the roads safe.
“Do we use radar enforcement in locations that are based on accident data?” Doherty said. “Yes, of course we do. But we aren’t trying to trap or catch anyone. Speed trap makes me think of a road that goes from 45 to 25 with an officer waiting hidden behind a building. That is not what we do.”
Aaron Quinn, communication director for NMA, said while safety should be the No. 1 goal of traffic enforcement, it often is not. He said the “SpeedTrap Exchange” aims to eliminate unfair and unnecessary speed traps by “bringing attention to the fact that a lot of speed limits are underposted.”
Quinn said there are many roads where the natural flow of traffic is well above the posted limit, making anyone keeping up with traffic a potential victim. Also, hills and other terrain factors can unknowingly increase drivers’ speeds, yet speed limits do not take into account those variables. The Web site informs drivers of locations where police take advantage of such roads by setting up speed traps.
Alex Felix, a former Illinois Auxiliary police officer for seven years and current resident of Glendale Heights, said he received a speeding ticket he felt was both unfair and unnecessary.
He was one of the only cars on the road as he drove down Ogden Avenue in Westmont at 7 a.m. when he noticed the red lights flashing behind him.
“I don’t speed. I’m a former police officer,” Felix said. “I had the cruise control set at 35. When the officer asked if I knew why I was pulled over and I told him, ‘No, I wasn’t speeding.’”
Nonetheless, Felix paid his $140 ticket, then recounted some of the reasons he chose to stop being a police officer and follow a new career path.
“They don’t always pull people over for the right reasons,” Felix said.
Quinn said the NMA wants to ultimately eliminate speed traps. Several states have already passed laws prohibiting them, and the organization encourages motorists to continue in this pursuit.