As a part-time police officer I write anywhere from 25 to 35 citations a month on a stretch of U.S. 400 in southeastern Kansas. The speed limit drops from 65 to 55 miles per hour, and ultimately to 45 mph as traffic passes through the small city of Cherokee. This stretch is currently part of a larger highway construction zone.
I have never really liked writing citations to folks who exceed the speed limit. But there is a time when lives mean more to me than issuing a $100 ticket, even though many of our citizens will experience added stress and discomfort from having to pay that ticket on top of their other bills.
I have observed many speeding violations. A high percentage of folks pulled over didn’t have a clue they were exceeding the speed limit. I have heard all the excuses, from “We were just talking,” or “I just missed the signs, Officer,” or “I just wasn’t paying attention” and so on.
This is what I have to offer drivers: When in transit and behind the wheel of your 1,000-pound projectile, always remember there is a point of no return. By the time you realize you are going to crash into the vehicle turning in front of you at the road work sign because your speed is 65 mph instead of the posted 45 mph … it’s too late. The lives of entire families will be changed within the next few seconds. This outcome could have been avoided.
The only way I sleep at night after issuing a citation is to know in my heart the person receiving it will be a little more nervous about missing the speed limit sign in the next city or work zone. He or she will be driving the appropriate speed to react, and lives may be saved.
Wayne Nelson is Superintendent at the KDOT Pittsburg Area Office. He also works part-time as a police officer for the City of Galena and is assistant police chief in Cherokee.