Extreme speeders take to Route 17 | recordonline.com
Extreme speeders take to Route 17
225 tickets for drivers going over 100 mph-plus
By Alyssa Sunkin
Posted: November 15, 2009 - 2:00 AM
MIDDLETOWN — Forget the sanctioned racetrack. Some drivers believe Route 17 is the newest addition to the NASCAR circuit.
And state police are there to remind them to the contrary.
Nearly half of 553 tickets issued from 2006 to 2008 for speeds of 100 mph or greater in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties went to motorists lead-footing it on Route 17, state figures reveal.
"People get a false sense of their driving skills because the road is smooth and open," said Sgt. Scott Mohl, traffic supervisor for state police Troop F. "They think they can exceed the speed limit in those areas. I guess they don't think they are going to get caught."
While Route 17 is most attractive to extreme speeders, expressways such as the Thruway and I-84 are not immune. In 2006-08, police issued 160 tickets to drivers of 100 mph or more on the Thruway, and 82 such tickets on I-84.
Just last month, a Long Island man was clocked at 111 mph on the Thruway. After fleeing police, he was eventually nabbed when his motorcycle ran out of gas.
To reach such speeds does not necessarily require a motorcycle, however. Conventional cars have always been able to hit 100 mph or more, Mohl said, but modern technology, from suspension to tires, makes it much easier.
"They seem to handle a little smoother and perform with a little less effort," he said. "It makes it easier for people to feel comfortable behind the wheel."
By the numbers
Total tickets issued for excessive speed in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties:
130 mph: 2
120-128 mph: 13
110-119 mph: 71
100-109 mph: 467
Tickets for 100 mph or greater by year:
2008: 137 tickets
2007: 188 tickets
2006: 228 tickets
• Overall, 62,572 speeding tickets were issued from 2006 to 2008 in Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties.
• A 71-year-old man was clocked doing 100 mph on Route 17 in the Town of Liberty in 2008.
• Of all the tickets where data was available, motorists were going an average of 19 mph above the posted speed limit.
• The lowest speeding ticket went to a driver doing 22 mph in a 5 mph-posted parking lot in Ulster County.
Source: New York state Department of Motor Vehicles' Traffic Safety Law Enforcement and Disposition system
Extreme hazard on the road
But none of the roads — expressways or otherwise — were designed to handle such speeds.
There are formulas involved when designing expressways, said state Department of Transportation regional traffic engineer Michael Cotton. Engineers make sure there is enough time and space between exit signs and ramps for drivers to react safely. Curves are designed to be handled at specific speeds.
These are all things that motorists driving at high speeds may be unable to handle.
"We, as drivers, all know intuitively the faster you drive, the less control you have," Cotton said.
Extreme speeding dramatically impacts a motorist's field of vision and peripheral vision and reduces the time to process information and react to it. That, in turn, can increase the probability of a crash.
In his capacity as a volunteer emergency medical technician, Cotton sees a correlation between the severity of an accident and the speed at which the motorist was traveling.
Nearly 200 of 733 car crashes between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2008, on Route 17 between Exit 120 at Route 211 and the I-87 Harriman toll plaza, were attributed to unsafe speeds, according to the state Department of Transportation. That was the second-highest contributing factor after tailgating.
Why the need for speed?
One local psychology professor cites the need for conformity and the rush of adrenaline.
Many drivers don't view speeding as breaking the law, said psychologist Linda Dunlap, department chairwoman at Marist College.
"I think cognitively, they think of it as doing what they need to do, or doing what everyone else does," she said.
If everyone does it and it's not really breaking the law, it cognitively gives people permission to do it, she said. Some of it may be that people want instant gratification and drive faster to get to their destination more quickly.
"I think people are very impatient," she said. "For some, the time spent in the car is not seen as relaxing. It's seen as something you need to do so you can get to the place you need to go."
And for those who love to drive, speeding, particularly extreme speeding, can produce feelings unlike anything else.
"It's a big adrenaline rush," she said. "They like going fast, and they don't process the true danger in it."
Mohl has heard all kinds of other explanations for speeding: "I have to go to the bathroom real bad," "I'm late for school or work" or "I left something on my stove," and even "I'm on my way to court."
"Usually, it's none of those," Mohl said. "Really, the reason is driver inattention or poor time management."
Using accident information and complaints, Mohl sets up speed and aggressive driving details on the roads. The details generally last six hours, with troopers saturating an area with the goal of issuing tickets for speeding and any other moving violations they spot.
Drivers can give any excuse they want, but in the end, it doesn't matter.
"We don't care why they are doing it," he said. "We just care that they are, and we're trying to send a message that they shouldn't be."