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Fort's new traffic ticket policy changes courtroom etiquette

Thursday, April 4, 2013 6:14 PM
Last updated Friday, April 5, 2013 7:59 AM
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Members of the military caught speeding on Fort Gor­don no longer have the option of reporting to military court alone or dressed in camouflage when charged with a traffic ticket.

Now, they must be in full uniform and have their first-line supervisor at their side during arraignments, according to a policy introduced at the Augusta Army post this week.

The change in courtroom etiquette has been in the works since 2011 as a way to improve safety at Fort Gordon, which has seen a 60 percent increase in dangerous speeders since the start of the year.

“The real reason for these changes is that the general and senior leaders at Fort Gordon are looking to reduce traffic violations – mainly speeding – by increasing commander awareness and oversight,” Col. John Carrell, the staff judge advocate at Fort Gordon, said in a conference call Thursday.

The need for more accountability on Fort Gordon’s roads became an issue two summers ago, when an increase in traffic violations revealed the post’s point-based penalty system was no longer being taken seriously among drivers who committed more than one traffic violation during a specific time period, Carrell said.

Fort Gordon police have cited 39 soldiers for two or more violations in the past 12 months, records show. The number of tickets written to drivers who have exceeded the speed limit by more than 20 mph has increased by more than 60 percent, from 32 citations to 52 citations.

Both crimes have resulted in soldiers having their driving privileges or licenses suspended, Carrell said.

To make more traffic court more formal and possibly crack down on speeders, the post on Monday began requiring first-time offenders to dress in full uniform – all ribbons, insignias and medals. Plus, they must have their immediate supervisor present during traffic court hearings, held at 6 p.m. every other Monday at Olmstead Hall during off-duty hours.

Service members who return to court must have their company commander and first sergeant in attendance.

Those who elect to contest the citation at the initial appearance must appear at the next scheduled hearing, where their leader will not be required to accompany them.

Fort Gordon Police Chief Willie McClinton said Thursday that he “absolutely” believes the amended policy will result in safer roads. In addition to curtailing speeding, he said, it should help stop people from using their cellphone while driving on base, the most common traffic violation cited by the 29 police officers on McClinton’s staff.

“It will make drivers more attentive,” said McClinton, who has also forecast a decrease in rear-end crashes on the 55,000-acre post, which gate officials estimate sees 40,000 vehicles a day.

The working military population at Fort Gordon is a little more than 15,000. In addition, about 2,800 military family members live on the post, said Public Affairs Chief J.C. Matthews.

The changes in procedures is exclusive to Fort Gordon. Unlike most other Army bases across the country, where a federal magistrate handles traffic citations, Fort Gordon has received permission from the U.S. District Court to hear misdemeanor citations issued against soldiers.

With more than 3,300 citations issued since July, Carrell said, the change was necessary.

“It falls upon us to take the measures to enforce the traffic violations,” the judge said. “Because we do not actually have a magistrate coming and hearing cases for service members.”

FORT GORDON’S TRAFFIC POINT SYSTEM

When two or more violations are committed, points can be assessed for each violation. Soldiers who accumulate 12 traffic points within 12 months, 18 points within 24 months or a single violation worth six or more points will have on-post driving privileges suspended.

ViolationPoints
Use of cellphone while driving a vehicle3
1-10 mph above speed limit3
10-15 mph above speed limit4
15-20 mph above speed limit5
21 or more mph above speed limit6
Comments (19) Add comment
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Riverman1
83990
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Riverman1 04/04/13 - 07:44 pm
2
1
I'm not trying to denigrate

I'm not trying to denigrate the Ft. Gordon program, but keep in mind they give tickets for one mile over the speed limit. Traffic enforcement is strict. I believe most tickets are given for those exceeding the 35 mph limit on most of the roads by a few miles. The cell phone restriction is unique to the fort and many contractors aren't aware of the post regulation.

fedex227
11187
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fedex227 04/04/13 - 08:12 pm
3
0
Cell phone use on federal installations ...
Unpublished

Use of cell phones on military bases has been outlawed for several years - I don't think anyone should be surprised. But I have witnessed people talking on cell phones numerous times while driving on Ft. Gordon. That being said, you're right Riverman - MP's (or the contracted cops they have now) are a little too quick with the citation book. I know a co-worker who was cited for driving 'too fast for conditions' (35mph on a 35mph road while it was raining.) A little ridiculous.

Willie Loman
267
Points
Willie Loman 04/04/13 - 09:42 pm
2
2
Can the public sit in on the traffic court?

Can the public sit in on the traffic court? It would be interesting to see if our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are being held to a higher standard than the rest of us poor souls. If so...kudos to the leadership at Ft. Gordon.

dichotomy
32973
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dichotomy 04/05/13 - 12:30 am
4
2
Okay.....20 mph over the

Okay.....20 mph over the limit is a bit much. But FG tends to ticket for 1 or 2 miles over the limit. And driving out there is a nightmare if you don't go frequently......25 mph.....35 mph.....25 mph......20 mph....15 mph.....ridiculously low speed limits that change every block.

So now in addition to the NORMAL punishment of being fined and accumulating points, and the already extra little NEEDLE of having to go to court "after duty hours", they want to heap a little more military harassment on top by requiring the soldier to show up in dress blues and tennis shoes WITH his supervisor. Oh I'd say we are in realm of about triple or quadruple jeopardy about now. All for doing 26 in a 25.

But I'm sure everyone in the command structure will put another blurb on their OER about "took action to reduce traffic violations by further humiliating and harassing accused personnel". Maybe they should be looking at their totally illogical, erratic, archaic speed limit patterns across post. The place looks like a bunch of drunks loaded a truck up full of various speed limit signs and drove around all night arbitrarily sticking them in the ground with no rhyme or reason. Yes, I'm sure they think they have a reason for every 10, 15, 20, 25, and 35 mph sign, but it does appear a bit overdone. You definitely have to be checking the roadside about every 100 ft. for a different speed limit.

Riverman1
83990
Points
Riverman1 04/05/13 - 07:26 am
3
0
Dichotomy makes another great

Dichotomy makes another great point. The speed limit changes too often. There is definite sign pollution on the fort's roads. It's hard to read everything. Also, the requirement if a ticket is contested to have the company commander and first sergeant come to the next hearing means few tickets will be fought. The fact is for all this negativity in the article, the fort has the safest roads and drivers in the CSRA.

CobaltGeorge
158895
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CobaltGeorge 04/05/13 - 08:04 am
3
1
Thank God For One Thing

You don't have any "Road Rage" while driving on the Base.

Adam Bomb
357
Points
Adam Bomb 04/05/13 - 08:24 am
1
1
Tickets on Fort Gordon

Ludowici err.. Fort Gordon is one big speed trap. The road coming in from gate one has different speed limits for each direction. Going towards the gate five exit at 35 one starts to descend a hill and finds the speed limit has dropped to 25, usually with an MP hiding by the service station. How they can enforce a one mile per hour over the limit violation is beyond me as the average vehicle has a plus or minus speedometer error of five to nine percent. I remember the world famous speed trap in Ludowici Georgia years back and present day Fort Gordon is even worse. My unsolicited advice to the Garrison Commander is to raise the speed limit to 45 everywhere except the housing areas. No more ups and down and MP's hiding twenty feet from the speed limit signs. I drive a large pickup truck and find myself having to ride the brakes to maintain the low speed limits. There just aren't that many pedestrians to be endangered. I notice they didn't mention retired and civilian drivers because they know their tickets will be fought and dismissed. The poor active duty drivers are risking their careers by driving anywhere on the Post. They can't fight back and must bring their supervisors to the Kangaroo court. That's a crock. Looks like they can make their own rules. Why on Earth did the State Court system allow this travesty. Fort Gordon = SPEED TRAP!

itsanotherday1
43243
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itsanotherday1 04/05/13 - 08:35 am
2
0
I second the above emotions,

I second the above emotions, but we can't ignore this:

"The number of tickets written to drivers who have exceeded the speed limit by more than 20 mph has increased by more than 60 percent, from 32 citations to 52 citations."

Riverman1
83990
Points
Riverman1 04/05/13 - 09:40 am
0
0
IAD, about the increase in

IAD, about the increase in tickets for those going 20 mph over the limit, that could be the result of many things including increased enforcement. The bottom line is I'd bet almost anything I can drive 10 miles anywhere in the CSRA 20 over the limit and not be stopped. If I tried that on the fort, I'd definitely be stopped. They have more officers than the counties do.

itsanotherday1
43243
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itsanotherday1 04/05/13 - 10:20 am
0
0
I agree 100% RM, but my point

I agree 100% RM, but my point is that they DO have people driving >20 over; which, considering their low tolerance for any speeding, points to the need to use a bigger stick. Their reputation alone is enough to motivate me to strictly obey the rules, but apparently the bite isn't hard enough for some.

Sweet son
10406
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Sweet son 04/05/13 - 11:06 am
0
0
Did I miss the obvious other situation?

What if anything has changed regarding civilians receiving traffic tickets on Post

iwasthere
5
Points
iwasthere 04/05/13 - 11:14 am
3
0
Some clarifications...

1) Retired and civilian drivers that receive tickets on post are required to go downtown to the magistrate court.
2) The Soldiers are not fined, and the points they 'earn' on Fort Gordon do not go on their civilian driver's license record.
3) The reason the speed limits are (aggravatingly) slow is because Fort Gordon is a training post -- meaning that the majority of the thousands of trainees on post do not drive and have to walk/march everywhere and cross numerous busy streets.
4) Before you assume that the military members who do receive citations are "humiliated and harrassed," why don't you actually attend the traffic court and see for yourself? Everyone is respectful, and no one is judged -- we all speed from time to time, we just don't all get caught.

Riverman1
83990
Points
Riverman1 04/05/13 - 11:21 am
0
0
Iwasthere. If you believe the

Iwasthere. If you believe the First Sergeant and Company Commander are not going to humiliate and harass someone who pleads not guilty and it requires them to be present at court after 6 pm (I assume also in Class A uniforms?), I wish I had been in your Army.

itsanotherday1
43243
Points
itsanotherday1 04/05/13 - 11:38 am
0
0
Sweet son

Sorry if you inferred from my post that I thought this was also a civilian issue. I was just saying that the threat is enough for me to be on my p's and q's; but it is apparently not enough to influence military personnel.

Sweet son
10406
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Sweet son 04/05/13 - 11:57 am
0
0
itsanotherday1

No inference to anything. I am with you about driving on Post. I'm retired but my job required me to go there occasionally and you better believe that I minded my speed. I thought those guys were crazy. LOL!

I remember years ago being fascinated with the side of the road radar on post. Seems like it was a little goofy and had a sign on it that said; "Smile you are on radar."

Saw Columbia County's radar on Davis Rd. yesterday and it brought back memories of the original one on Post.

sgmret
4114
Points
sgmret 04/05/13 - 12:58 pm
0
0
If it's one of the safest

If it's one of the safest places to drive in the CSRA, something is working.

dichotomy
32973
Points
dichotomy 04/05/13 - 01:57 pm
1
1
"The number of tickets

"The number of tickets written to drivers who have exceeded the speed limit by more than 20 mph has increased by more than 60 percent, from 32 citations to 52 citations."

"which gate officials estimate sees 40,000 vehicles a day."

So let's see....40,000 vehicles a day. I assume they mean workdays. So 365 minus 52 weekends (110 days) leaves 255 days. Minus some federal holidays so let's work with 240 days x 40,000 vehicles = 9,600,000 vehicles a year. They have had an increase of 20 tickets for speeding 20 mph over the limit. A 60% increase in speeding tickets for 20 mph over the limit. Boy, talk about using percentages to make a case. That's like saying we had 1 last year and 2 this year so we've had 100% increase. When I think about it, 20 more speeding tickets for going 20 mph over the speed limit out of 9,600,000 vehicles does not exactly sound like a crime wave. Try dividing 20 by 9,600,000 to get the actual percentage of NEW 20 mph over the limit offenders last year.....if you can find a calculator that will handle that many decimal places. Even if you assume it's the same 40,000 vehicles every day that's 20 divided by 40,000 = 0.0005% new 20 mph over the limit offenders. Talk about much ado about nothing.

Riverman1
83990
Points
Riverman1 04/05/13 - 04:34 pm
0
0
Not that I really want to get

Not that I really want to get into all this, but if we must, tell me this traffic court conviction rate of lower ranking enlisted men-women and others?

crkgrdn
2287
Points
crkgrdn 04/05/13 - 06:11 pm
0
0
This is all about safety and it works

All Marine Corps bases have the cell phone restriction.
What is remarkable is that we had nearly the same restrictions in Augusta.
Today, driving in Augusta is similar to that in many third world countries.

dichotomy
32973
Points
dichotomy 04/05/13 - 06:56 pm
1
1
Well, you can sell ANYTHING

Well, you can sell ANYTHING by using the words safety, take care of the children, and feed the hungry. But the fact of the matter is that I do not believe Fort Gordon has exactly been a hotbed of traffic accidents or pedestrian/automobile accidents. And I do not believe that the harassment of having to wear class A uniforms and drag your boss along to an "after duty hours" traffic court has spit to do with safety. The man's boss has no control over how a soldier drives his personal vehicle on Fort Gordon. So the only reason for forcing his boss to come to court with him is intimidation and the threat that the boss will "make life miserable" for the soldier.

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