Caught in their own trap

Switched speed-limit sign exposes overzealous enforcement

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It’d be great if the sheriff’s office responded to every accident this quickly.


A contractor allegedly reduced the speed limit on a portion of River Watch Parkway incorrectly a few months ago – and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office wasted no time in targeting motorists for speeding tickets.

Officials now say the reduction to 45 mph from the longtime 55 mph was an accident by the contractor, going back as far as February. The reduced limit was only to be for certain hours due to a nearby work zone on the Augusta Canal towpath.

But the sheriff’s department sure capitalized on it – planting multiple deputies around a bend firing radar at unsuspecting evening commuters who’d grown rightfully accustomed to the 55-mph speed limit and failed to see the lone 45 mph sign.

The department says it didn’t know the speed limit was in error. We thought ignorance of the law was no excuse! But it remains that no one – not the contractor, not the sheriff’s department, not the city – thought to pick up a phone and ask someone if things were kosher.

Now they’ve essentially been caught in their own speed trap: After The Augusta Chronicle’s Steve Crawford exposed the cash grab on Sunday, court and law enforcement officials said Monday they are looking at reviewing and perhaps forgiving a good portion of the tickets.

Most, if not all, of the minor speeding violations should be dismissed. This was pure negligence on the part of those charged with maintaining signage on the roadways.

In addition, the folks involved showed a callous disregard for the driving public. If the speed limit on that portion of River Watch was going to be permanently lowered, as appeared to be the case for months, where was the notice to drivers? And wouldn’t a grace period – during which minor speeding violations would bring warnings rather than fines – be warranted?

Do we not deserve that kind of courtesy before deputies start lining up to line the county’s coffers?

Indeed, we talked to a traffic engineering expert who said the protocol for reductions in speed limits would likely include public service announcements and a month or more of multiple and inescapable warning signs. And again, a law enforcement agency might also observe a grace period in which speeders are merely warned.

Then there’s the little matter that there was no signage whatsoever before the roadway reverted to 45 mph from 55. It has become commonplace, and likely the transportation industry standard, for motorists to be warned of a reduction in speed limits up ahead.

Nope. Authorities were all-too-happy to take our money and not wonder a thing about whether it was fair, legal or proper.

Fact is, our traffic expert and a former prosecutor we contacted both said that the sheriff’s department was probably not authorized by the state to enforce a lower speed limit along that stretch of road – outside of the work zone and its limited hours of operation.

“I can say with certainty as a former prosecutor that I would not actively prosecute the citations that were issued,” our contact told us.

If you got one of those tickets, and the county is still trying to enforce it, we urge you to contact a lawyer or fight it on your own. You’ll be able to tell the court that the county was enforcing an unauthorized speed limit after failing to follow the protocol for lowering it.

We appreciate that the sheriff’s department wants to enforce traffic laws – but we suggest it should ask itself if perhaps it has been a little overzealous and antagonistic in this case.

The errant 45-mph sign now has a bag over it. But the sign has revealed a casual disregard toward the driving public that will take more than a bag to cover over.

Comments (20) Add comment
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myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 06:18 am
6
8
Thanks for the hit piece!!

You could have reported on this honestly and fairly; without using the inflammatory wording and demeaning the Sheriff's Office and Deputies who risk their lives everyday to protect the people!! Yes, in full disclosure, I'm a Deputy and probably biased in this. When we are attacked FULL FORCE, because of the actions of one or a few, it upsets me, because I know how many honest, good people their are that wear the uniforms.

The wording of this paragraph, I have serious problems with:

"But the sheriff’s department sure capitalized on it – PLANTING multiple deputies around a bend FIRING radar at UNSUSPECTING evening commuters who’d grown rightfully accustomed to the 55-mph speed limit and failed to see the lone 45 mph sign."

PLANTING, FIRING!!! Wow, almost sounds like we are planting evidence and firing weapons at innocent people, because we are just ruthless thugs!! Nice inflammatory wording!!

"After The Augusta Chronicle’s Steve Crawford exposed the CASH GRAB on Sunday"

Do you have undeniable evidence this was done for no other reason than financial gain; or are we suppose to just take your word for it? If so, could you please do a follow up article and provide the evidence this was about nothing but MONEY??

"Do we not deserve that kind of courtesy before deputies start lining up to line the county’s coffers?"

Wow, sounds like all deputies are just "lining up" to screw the next person available out of as much money as possible!! If true, we should do away with the Sheriff's Office immediately and replace it with a new, better system. I'd LOVE to hear you ideas on this better system!!

Is it also possible that EVERYONE makes mistakes? Certainly and hopefully this one should be corrected and those who were traveling less than 66 MPH should have their citations voided. Why 66mph? Because if it was a 55mph zone, thats the first speed DEPUTIES could make charges against. The speed must exceed the posted speed limit by MORE than 10 miles per hour.

Riverman1
110784
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Riverman1 06/26/13 - 07:01 am
6
3
Editorial Misses

Sheriff Roundtree’s actions the other day when he admitted the signs were wrong and said he would work to correct those tickets negate this entire reprimanding editorial. He stepped up to the plate when no other official would do so. Where was the traffic engineer in this whole mess that went on for months? He comes in at the end and says...oh, the sign is wrong. He should have known and acted much sooner.

Little Lamb
53073
Points
Little Lamb 06/26/13 - 07:46 am
2
2
New Approach

Here's an idea. I see it implemented in Alabama. The temporary speed limit reductions around road construction areas should apply only to protect the workers. Let's say the speed limit on a section of road is 55 mph; but construction has started. The temporary speed limit signs say:

Speed Limit
45
When workers
are present

That way, on week-ends and at night motorists can drive the normal limits.

corgimom
46683
Points
corgimom 06/26/13 - 07:50 am
3
4
If the ticket was written for

If the ticket was written for more than 55 mph- which most of them were- good luck with that.

Little Lamb
53073
Points
Little Lamb 06/26/13 - 07:50 am
4
1
Inappropriate Limits

Was it Charles Devaney who was responsible for the speed limits on Riverwatch Parkway? They need to be revisited every now and then. There are sections of Riverwatch Parkway where 55 is entirely too slow for a limit. Much of the Parkway is limited access with opposing lanes separated by a median with barrier. They should raise the limits to 65 in those sections.

Riverman1
110784
Points
Riverman1 06/26/13 - 08:04 am
4
0
"If the ticket was written

"If the ticket was written for more than 55 mph- which most of them were- good luck with that."

State law says the speed limit has to be exceeded by more than 10 mph for local law enforcement to issue valid tickets. Thus, anyone getting a ticket going less than 66 mph would have his/her ticket thrown out as the officer above, MyFather15, clearly points out.

deestafford
40289
Points
deestafford 06/26/13 - 09:09 am
2
0
Temporary limits should have a different type of sign

rather than what would be look like permanent speed limits. The good thing is I'm sure this will not happen again because everyone is aware of what problem such a situation causes.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 09:14 am
5
1
MORE than 10mph law; O.C.G.A 40-14-8

http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2006/40/40-14-8.html

For some that don't quite understand. We can NOT make a case against you unless you are exceeding the posted speed limit by 11 miles per hour or MORE; not 10 over, but 11.

Now, this statute does NOT apply to a State Troopers; only city, county or campus police. But I've never heard of a trooper issuing a citation for 10 or less. They VOLUNTARILY comply with this because 10 or less over isn't considered a major violation.

faithson
6018
Points
faithson 06/26/13 - 09:51 am
1
4
oh no,

the average speed driven for all these readers just went up, now knowing that they get that grace period, although I always 'thought' and when taking trips that 10 over would not cause problems, seems my guess was accurate. Happy +10 to all.

GiantsAllDay
12524
Points
GiantsAllDay 06/26/13 - 09:55 am
4
6
The georgia patrol was making

The georgia patrol was making their rounds
So he fired a shot just to flag em down
And a big bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said
Why'd ya do it?
The judge said guilty in a make believe trial...slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile...said suppers waiting at home and I gotta get to it!

Gotta love georgia, right?

Young Fred
23644
Points
Young Fred 06/26/13 - 01:03 pm
7
1
Myfather15, I respect and

Myfather15, I respect and appreciate what you and the Sheriff's dept do, and always look forward to reading your post - But I have a real hard time believing the higher-ups at the sheriff's office didn't know the limit's posted were in error. I could be wrong, but I don't believe permanent changes are made without notification to local police officials.

Riverman1, the Sheriff admitted the ticketing was wrong, after they got caught and after it was publicized. I agree the traffic engineer shares in the blame, but he wasn't writing tickets.

Does anyone on here actually believe the Sheriff would "work to correct those tickets" if this had not been made public?

itsanotherday1
53220
Points
itsanotherday1 06/26/13 - 12:49 pm
7
2
faithson, do you think that

faithson, do you think that people don't already know about the 10mph "buffer"? If they don't they must have just landed here from another planet.

LL, there was a poster yesterday or the day before that thinks 55 is too fast for Riverwatch, saying the whole thing should be 45.

myfather15, I need to say something that will stir the pot for sure, but it is just a sore spot with me. First, I have respect and gratitude for all of the LEOS who put on the uniform every day and have to deal with some of society's lowest life forms. However, though there is appreciable risk involved, depending on your particular beat; law enforcement barely breaks the top ten in most dangerous jobs, and only did so recently. Saying "I put my life on the line every day to protect you" is a bit melodramatic and self serving. In my opinion of course.

My body armor is on, so y'all fire away!

David Parker
7924
Points
David Parker 06/26/13 - 04:25 pm
2
0
If the signs were wrong then

If the signs were wrong then the speed limit was actually 55 so the tickets were written in error, just as the signs were posted in error. I see no culpability in the drivers who were ticketed for going less than 55 mph. Beyond that, i got nothin.

Riverman1
110784
Points
Riverman1 06/26/13 - 05:35 pm
2
0
David, LOL...here we go

David, LOL...here we go again. If the speed limit was 55, then they should not have been ticketed by the RCSO for 66 mph or less. See the above comments by MyFather15 and myself.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 06:51 pm
3
3
"is a bit melodramatic and self serving."

One question and answer it honestly; how many fights have you been involved in, the last 5 years or so? Probably not many!!

I've been in so many I can't count them!! I've been injured and hospitalized while doing my job and that's just me; that's not counting the all the other deputies I know who've been hurt doing this job or fighting some scumbag!! So, I suppose more LE officers need to get killed so they can make the top ten, huh?

The simply FACT is; you have no clue what you're talking about!! What section of the CSRA do you live in? Nice, peaceful neighborhood?? Good subdivision? Gated community maybe? Which one?

The truth is, because OFFICERS put the uniform on everyday, it enables people to live their wonderful lifestyles with PEACE, and NOT having to fight for themselves!! If WE weren't fighting them, YOU would be!! Let me ask you another question? How many murderers have you ever even met?? Probably NONE!! Most average citizens haven't even met a murderer that would cut your throat in a heartbeat. We deal with them quite often!!

The truth is, if it weren't for the men and women in uniform; YOU and others like you wouldn't have such a peaceful life!! The gangsters would be moving into houses in Summerville, West Lake, Jones Creek. Because the homeowners would have to fend for themselves and the gangs are coming in NUMBERS with FORCE!! You don't know these people, they are RUTHLESS!! They don't care about YOU or anyone else!! They would shoot you in the face and move into your nice home and step across your body to walk in and out!!

So, what keeps them in check? LAW ENFORCEMENT!! Because they know if they try this, WE are coming, IN FORCE!! We are willing at ANY MOMENT to put our lives on the line to PROTECT YOU, and your property!! No, we might not have to do this EVERYDAY, but we do it PLENTY ENOUGH!! The simply FACT is that just by putting this uniform on and showing up for work; we keep criminals at bay!! That's why criminals try to hide while committing their crimes!! If it wasn't for us, they would do it out in the open, face to face with the victims. Probably turning a burglary victim into a murder victim!! Yes, there would be many civilians fight back, as I would; but many would lose, especially when fighting the gangs. If they knew they didn't have LE coming for them, my gosh what they would do!!

So, next time you're sitting on the back deck, drinking a margarita or martini; just realize it might not be this way if it weren't for those men and women that are a bit "melodramatic".

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 06:55 pm
4
2
Having said that....

I'm not upset at you at all. You just gave your opinion, I just don't think people put a lot of thought into how much we PREVENT. Most civilians have actually NEVER met an actual gang member. They have no idea how ruthless these people can be. The only experience they've had with gang members and murderers is what they read in the newspaper or see on T.V.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 09:47 pm
2
3
I remember a few years back,

I remember a few years back, I had just got through working a crash with a triple fatality; where myself another deputy and EMS had to pull several victims from the vehicles. Children were in one of the vehicles, but lived. After being on the scene for over 4 hours, directing traffic after the victims were in route to the hospital; I had sweated so much my entire uniform was soaked.

After clearing up; I went to convenience store to get some gatorade. I was absolutely drained mentallly and physically. The guy standing in front of me in line, turned around and jokingly said "I don't think they sell donuts here." All I said was "I promise you, I'm not looking for donuts". He then said "What ya'll been doing tonight, sleeping?" I just said "I wish" and left it at that.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/26/13 - 09:49 pm
3
3
@dstewartsr

You must have forgot; we ignorant deputies didn't go to college. That's why we are overpaid at $15.00/Hr.

Young Fred
23644
Points
Young Fred 06/26/13 - 11:37 pm
2
2
Myfather15, Anyone who

Myfather15,

Anyone who doesn't realize the tribulations you must go through in the ordinary course of your job just has no clue. Doing your best, wading through human sewage in order to serve and protect, but yet having to deal with ordinary citizens that view you with distrust.

I think much of the snarkiness comes from people who resent government authority, especially considering the revelations we've seen concerning our federal gov't over these last few months. I have to admit I'm somewhat queasy when it comes to giving taxpayer funded authority a pass. Not trying to excuse, just trying to explain.

I for one have huge respect for the men in the trenches, and place no blame on the trench fighters for the faux pas of the leadership, or the “higher ups” in gubment.

myfather15
59557
Points
myfather15 06/27/13 - 05:49 am
1
1
Fred, I agree brother!

As anyone on here should know, I'm NOT a fan of big government! But, the soldiers and Marines in the trenches are not responsible for the decisions of Obama and the administration. Just as Deputies aren't responsible for the decisions of the Sheriff.

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