DETROIT (WXYZ) - Why has the National Motorists Association named metro Detroit one of the worst areas in the nation for speed traps?
7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis is following the money looking for answers. And he’s talking to a retired cop who says he knows how to put the brakes on speed traps for good.
So, are police writing tickets in certain areas of metro Detroit to keep you safe, or is it all about the revenue?
On any given day you can see a Ferndale police officer working a speed trap on eastbound 8 Mile Road near Woodward. What's interesting and what sparked complaints from viewers is that the officer is not setting up in Ferndale. He’s on the Detroit side of 8 Mile, sitting inside the Detroit city limits.
Thirty miles away Romulus police are constantly working another hot spot on Eureka Road behind Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Writing tickets here is like shooting fish in a barrel. The road is three lanes and semi-rural, but the speed limit is posted at 40 miles per hour.
These are just two spots out of many that have been identified by the National Motorists Association as speed traps.
But Ferndale’s police chief says the criticism is not warranted.
"The easiest way that the public can stay out of this fray is follow the speed limit," said Chief Timothy Collins.
Collins says speed enforcement in his city is mostly about preventing serious accidents and reducing crime with police presence.
But Jim Walker from the National Motorists Association disagrees. "It's strictly for revenue," Walker told 7 Action News.
Walker says many speed limits are set artificially low to make it easy for police to write tickets and he says that creates uneven speeds, which actually makes driving more dangerous.
The National Motorists Association logs complaints about speed traps from people like you and posts them on its website. The 7 Action News Investigators posted those sites on an interactive map.
CHECK OUT THE MAP BELOW
View Metro Detroit Speed Traps in a larger map
When people are ticketed in these places, the routine is almost always the same. When the offending driver goes to court, they are offered a deal to plead guilty to impeding traffic and pay a fine on the spot. If they agree, they get no points on their driving record. Most people take the deal because they know they're not going to win and they don’t want their insurance rates to go up.
"I've been in this country 81 years. I'm a Korean War veteran and I know that I don't stand a ghost of a chance. I'm intelligent enough to know that," one frustrated driver told a judge in Ferndale after being ticketed on that stretch of 8 Mile Road in Detroit.
Many drivers say even though they take the deal it leaves them with a sour taste in their mouths toward the police.
"I'm going to pay these tickets but you know it's a shame that the city has to do this to people because they don't have any money. It's a shame before God," another ticketed driver told the judge in Ferndale.
It's perfectly legal for Ferndale police to write tickets on the Detroit side of 8 Mile Road. Police have enforcement powers in neighboring jurisdictions, and according to Chief Collins, two of the three lanes on the Detroit side are actually part of Ferndale.
It's legal, but is it right?
7 Action News asked Chief Collins to respond to critics who say the type of enforcement his department is doing along 8 Mile Road is more about revenue than it is about safety.
“I would be foolish to say that there was not a revenue component of this," Collins said. "But if you're saying that we're going out there to make the public pay for our law enforcement, I don't think that's a fair assessment."
The speed limit on 8 Mile is set by the State of Michigan, and they're considering raising it.
7 Action News asked Jim Walker to do a speed study where Ferndale Police are writing all those tickets to see what the proper speed limit should be.
He said only 28 percent of the one hundred cars he clocked were going the speed limit.
“That tells you that the posted speed limit is wrong," Walker said.
Under Michigan law, speed limits are supposed to be set at the 85th percentile. That is the speed at which 85 percent of the cars in the study are going. In Walker’s study, the 85th percentile was 47 miles per hour. Based on that, he says the proper speed limit on 8 Mile road should be 45 or 50 miles per hour.
Kurt Skarjune, a retired police officer from a Detroit suburb believes that a lot of traffic enforcement in Michigan is done to make money rather than to keep people safe.
"It's like a dirty secret. But it's really not a secret, but it certainly is dirty, and somebody needs to do something about it," Skarjune said.
Skarjune thinks the way to stop speed traps is to follow the money from traffic tickets, then re-direct where it's going.
Under Michigan law, police can write speeding tickets under state law or local ordinance. If they use state law, most of the money goes to libraries. But under