|The Virginia welcome sign at the Virginia welcome center on I-95 employs the state bird, the cardinal, and the state tree and flower, the dogwood. |
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm annoyed. This past summer while traveling through the state of Virginia I got a speeding ticket on I-81 near Wytheville. The last ticket I had gotten for speeding was in Las Vegas in April of 2009 shortly after I had become unemployed. That time I was on my way to work one last trade show for the company that I had been employed with for over 30 years. I'll admit that I was speeding because I was anxious to get to the show facility. I couldn't really afford that ticket, but I was at fault. The officer cut me a break on the reported speed so the penalty would be less.
Ever since receiving that Las Vegas ticket I have been very careful about my speed. Most of the time on the highway I use the cruise control so I don't inadvertently go too fast. Often newer cars run so smoothly that it doesn't feel like you're going as fast as you really are and it's easy to exceed the speed limit. I was using my cruise control on that Monday morning of July 21st near Wytheville, Virginia. That's why I was taken aback to see the flashing police lights appear behind me.
The officer claimed that I was going 82 MPH in a 70 MPH zone. I told him that I had been using cruise control and did not think I had been going as fast as he said. He wrote me the ticket anyway. Since I was anxious to continue my trip I let it be. What else could I do? He said he was cutting me a break by reducing my reported speed to less than 80 since for over that amount would result in a charge of reckless driving which was a far worse offense. I accepted the ticket and continued on my trip.
A few days later, still annoyed with having gotten this traffic citation, I did a Google search using "Wytheville Speed Trap". I had known that this area had a notorious reputation as being a speed trap, but I was shocked at the results I found on the internet. Case after case of drivers cited for speeding in this same stretch of I-81 told the same story as mine. They were almost all driving newer vehicles with out-of-state licenses and given speed reductions of less than 80 after reportedly being clocked at 82 MPH. This seems like more than coincidence to me. There are lengthy threads to be found about this speed trap with stories just like mine. This is really annoying.
The officer was very courteous and professional, but now I understand that Wythe County Virginia is doing business as a ticket mill. Of course the officer wants to come across as a good representative for the business. The ticket was only for $121.00 which is relatively cheap in comparison to other tickets I've gotten in the past. I guess I can be thankful for that. It appears that they are operating on volume sales like Walmart.
Another thing many of the folks said on the internet sites about this speed trap was that a few weeks after having received their citations they began receiving letters from attorneys in that area offering to take their cases. Lo and behold I too received a couple of attorney letters. I was tempted to call one of these attorneys, but I was not overly trusting in them either. They are undoubtedly in collusion with the traffic courts in Wythe County.
My hearing date is coming up in a few days, but of course I won't be traveling back to Southwest Virginia from Los Angeles. No one does from the accounts that I read. A few hired one of the attorneys who had contacted them but most were unhappy with the outcome the attorneys gave them. That's another reason I don't have an interest in contacting one of those attorneys.
Yeah, maybe it's sour grapes on my behalf, but a hundred dollars is more than I care to have taken from me in what is literally highway robbery. I had to do a post on this to add my voice to the many others to be found on the search engines. Also to warn any of you should you happen to have to travel up I-81 in Virginia. Be careful! Travel in packs with other vehicles if you can. It was relatively early in the morning with little traffic when I was pulled over. I was an easy mark.
I've stayed in Wytheville a few times, eaten in restaurants there, and stopped for gas. In the future I'll make it a point to boycott this town of pernicious speed trappery. It's really a shame too because that's a beautiful part of the country. Taking advantage of travelers is a sad industry that has provided income to the county's coffers for many years. I hope to see the day when they strive to be more traveler friendly. That's when Wytheville will get my business again. For now Wytheville gets a bad rap from me and now I'm sharing it with the world.
Have you ever been caught in a speed trap? If so, how did you handle your ticket? Are you familiar with this part of Virginia and I-81?