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Letters – Reader sounds off about Martindale a ‘speed trap’

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To the Editor:
Some readers of the Post-Register probably read the “above the fold” story “State puts brakes on Martindale speeding tickets,” in the April 17 edition of the Austin American-Statesman. It upsets me when my city is called a “speed trap” and the story did not really set the record straight. The state of Texas is not “putting the brakes” on citing speeders

in Martindale as the story would leave you to believe. If you speed in Martindale, you are still going to get stopped and a citation written.

A road, highway or street speed limit is the maximum speed allowed by law for road vehicles and are commonly set and enforced by the legislative bodies within the USA. The Texas Department of Public Safety has set the speed limit on Highway 80 at 55 miles per hour within the city limits of Martindale because of the numerous intersecting roads leading to housing projects, businesses and single homes, as well as two farm-to-market roads and two county roads. The speed limit is set at 50 miles per hour for the quarter mile before and after the intersection of Highway 80 and Highway 142. In December 2007 TxDOT replaced a blinking yellow caution light with a stop light at that intersection because of numerous traffic collisions occurring at that point.

The term “speed trap” refers to a point where a speed limit is arbitrarily set, not related to prevailing speeds or hidden dangers, and is strictly enforced by police. It is generally understood as meaning a specific location in which police wait in concealment. The speed limit in Martindale is not arbitrarily set and the Martindale police do not wait in concealment to “catch” people exceeding the speed limit. They are easily seen driving on the highway or parked in plan view.

Cities or road sections become known as speed traps where police have a reputation for writing an unusually high number of traffic tickets, especially speeding tickets, to generate revenue for their operation.

There isn”t any Texas law designating cities as “speed traps.” What is commonly known as the “Texas” speed-trap law,” however, is a statute that applies to towns of fewer than 5,000 and is an indirect approach to discourage small towns from relying too heavily on traffic tickets to generate money for their budgets.

Nearly all traffic fines that exceed 30 percent of a city”s previous year”s total general revenues must be paid to the state. For instance, a town that takes in total revenues of $100,000 this year can keep only $30,000 in traffic fines next year, plus $1 for each ticket over the cap.

The law, passed in 1975, which is enforced by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, prescribes no penalties – beside payment of money past due – for violations. And cities can grow their budgets each year by writing more tickets.

Since 1999, Martindale has voluntarily paid more than $10,000 to the state in excess fines, according to figures provided by the comptroller”s office under the Texas Public Information Act. What got Martindale in trouble was in previous years is that it did not send the Comptroller enough money – it kept more than the 30 percent, and is now having to repay that money.

Martindale police enforce the speed limits set by the state for Texas Highway 80, so Martindale has come to be known as a “speed trap” for those who break the law and get caught.

Most motorists do not obey the posted speed limits regardless of where they are driving, and when they disregard the posted limits in Martindale on Highway 80, they are stopped and issued a citation. They bring on the citation themselves by exceeding the posted speed limits. No one “traps” them into breaking the law.
John Schmidt, III
Martindale

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