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Friday, October 10, 2014

Travel Warning: I-81 Speed Trap!

The Virginia welcome sign at the Virginia welc...
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?


  1. I wonder if there is a effective way to fight that? Certainly not by hiring a local lawyer.
    If I'd been the one pulled over, I couldn't have argued because I would have been speeding over eighty mph.

  2. LOL! We were recently on that freeway and I had no idea it was a speed trap. We probably wouldn't have been doing 80-85 mph had we known.

  3. BOIDLEE ~
    How can you be so upset when the po-lice were merely trying to protect and serve?

    You would need to double check me on what I'm about to write but...

    At one time (and maybe it's still the case) all of the states Motor Vehicle Agencies operated separately (i.e., there was no federal connection between states when it came to traffic citations).

    What this meant (and might very well still mean) is that if you failed to pay the fine for the ticket it would ONLY affect you if you ever got pulled over again (or arrested) in Virginia.

    If you did get pulled over in VA. there would be a warrant out for your arrest for failure to pay and failure to appear. But if you received a ticket in some OTHER state, the outstanding VA. ticket would not adversely affect you in any way.

    I don't know how often you travel in VA. but if what I'm saying is still the case, and if you don't anticipate being in VA. again, you could ignore it (or better yet, send the ticket back to them with the words "F.O." written on it and maybe the URL to one of the websites where the speed trap has been discussed).

    Of course, if you expect to be in VA. again, you should just pay the ticket and not have to sweat it every time you cross the state line.

    Knowing what you now know about that stretch of road, if it were me, I would confirm the accuracy of what I've written above and then send them the ticket back with a suggestion about what they can do with it. ...But that's me.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  4. LOL. First of all, are all my blogger friends speeders? I've driven that road too and I make a point to never go more than 10 mph over the speed limit. Never had a taken, yet. 81 is a crazy trucker highway yet I've never seen one of the big rigs pulled over. Thanks for the warning about that stretch.

  5. Wow. I've heard of stuff like this happening. Too bad you can't contact other people who went through it and file a case.

    The officer probably tells you a certain speed so (when he/she reduces it) you feel extremely grateful about it and are less likely to complain. I mean, he let you know right away it would be "much worse" if he put the "real" speed on there. Scoundrels.

    **I know this isn't the case, but it would be funny if it wasn't malicious and all of their radar guns were just malfunctioning.**

  6. Alex-- I'd rather not argue with a cop if I don't want to spend a lot of time dealing with it later. Only twice that I can recall did one of those arguments end up in my favor.

    L.Diane-- That area has been notorious for speed traps for years. In 1977 I got another ticket a little south of where I was this time.

    StMC-- I'm in Virginia far too often to want to risk not paying the ticket. I checked on the reciprocity rules and now most of the states keep track of citations elsewhere. Not worth the risk for me. Now if I were going to in Wytheville on the 15th I'd go to court on the chance that the officer wouldn't show up, but that's a long way to go to get out of a $120 ticket.

    Susan GK-- Judging from what I see on the highways most people are speeders. People are always whizzing by me and I'm usually nudging a few miles past the limit.

    Jennifer -- I'm sure the highway police think they're performing a public service to give a reduced charge. I think it's a money-making scam.


  7. There are many speed traps like this one in the US of A, and a lot in Georgia, where I lived early in my driving life. Small towns, USA are rampant with speed traps.

    In Canada, we notice the upswing in traffic ticketing when it's the end of the month, and perhaps enough tickets haven't been issued by certain police officers. They get performance reviews, too, I guess. I'm not a speeder, per se, but I think I have one to my name about 20 yrs ago or more going 10 miles over the limit, issued by a rookie cop. . .it is a racket, IMO.

  8. That's crap and I'm sorry that happened. But it's gonna cost you more than the ticket your insurance will go up too. :( I've been busted in speed traps too. In CA you get one chance to go to traffic school for a day & pay the fine and it doesn't get reported to your insurance, so I did that. In WA, my attorney boss went with me to my hearing and requested that I pay the fine but it not be reported to ins. b/c I had a good driving record and the judge agreed. I had to be a good girl driving for like 16 months. The last time we got pulled over was on the way east and Russell was driving. The state trooper in Eastern WA listened to my, 'well I'm moving so the address on my license & reg is no longer valid, my name has been changed in my divorce, my driver is from MA and his license is in the trunk along w/ my new insurance policy b/c the ins card in my glove box is expired...' He said, 'Oh my god just GO and BE CAREFUL!' lol

  9. I am reading Money grab big time especially when people get letters from lawyers. I wonder if they are all kissing cousins? There are a couple of speed traps but I was never caught. The last time I got caught for speeding was 30 some odd years ago and I was a bad girl. I started speaking in German and lloking all confused and I kept talking (mostly gibberish), he just rolled his eyes and motioned with his hand to go. I did.

  10. Wow that's just horrible. I can't believe that people can be so mean. :-/

  11. I'm probably a bit too much of a hardass with things like this, but I just wouldn't pay it. They're not going to issue an arrest warrant over one ticket, and there's not really anything they can do about it. Also, you don't actually have to hire a lawyer from there to handle it; you can easily get someone local to you to protest it for you. Usually, it only requires a letter. Unless the ticketing officer actually shows up to press the case, the greater probability is that it would be dismissed.

  12. Lee-

    When I lived in Philly and we'd venture south, Virginia was notorious for nailing out-of-state cars.

    Think of it as a toll. A really steep toll.

    I think boycotting is your best bet, and in fact, if there are businesses you patronized, I'd let them know you travel to the area frequently but will be avoiding the town.

    And let them know why. If enough businesses cause a stink, the police may back off.


  13. DG-- I've heard about that end-of-the-month phenomena and have noticed the greater presence of highway cops during those times.

    JoJo-- I don't think my insurance will be overly affected if at all. I hope not!

    Birgit-- Confusing things can help i guess.

    Misha-- I don't know if it's intended as meanness as much as it is the business of raising government revenue.

    Andrew-- Well, like I told Stephen above, I travel too much in Virginia to want to risk an outstanding warrant. And I can't see paying an attorney what might end up being more than the $120 ticket and having no guarantee that I'd get off. I probably would, but I don't care to risk it when just paying the ticket is easier.

    Larry -- They've been at this ticket game for decades as far as I know. And when I say "frequently" I mean only once or twice a year. I doubt whether they'll miss my business and I've never done business with any specific places. Maybe someone there will see my blog post.


  14. I can well imagine passing through the Virginia signpost as I went through there on one of my Daniel concerts.

    It's awful you got caught through a speed trap, and I hope you get through your troubles without having to pay.

    I don't blame you boycotting some towns there when you're that way again.

    Have a grand week-end.

  15. I don't speed (almost never). But I grew up in Illinois, across from Missouri. One way to get to St. Louis was Hwy 79, which went through some very small towns known for their own speed traps.
    I always obeyed those signs, but my father rec'd many tickets over 50+ years.

  16. I'll put a red * next to that place. If anyone would get a ticket it would be my husband. He still thinks driving a car is about the same as taking off in a jet. Too many years in the cockpit.

  17. Damn speed traps. I don't drive but I have heard my parents complain about a few places like this. They ensure to avoid those areas though.

  18. Yvonne-- I paid the ticket last night so it's done.

    Susan Kane--Over the years I've gotten more speeding tickets than I'd care to admit, but overall considering all the driving I've done I think I've been pretty lucky.

    C.Lee-- Sometimes I wish I were flying a jet on my trips.

    Sheena-kay--The problem with traveling on I-81 is that it's the best way to go where I want to go. It's difficult to avoid going that way.


  19. That really makes me mad! I hate to see people being taken advantage of simply because they happen to be out-of-staters who are most assuredly less likely to fight the ticket out of sheer inconvenience. But I'm a fighter, especially for what is fair and just. Knowing that this advice is unsolicited, I'll just share with you what I would do if I were sitting in your circumstance: since you have found an online thread, making it appear that indeed some unsavory law enforcement practices are taking place in that town, I would contact the news departments at the local TV stations and see if any of them do consumer investigations. Many tv stations do consumer protection investigations, such as "7 on Your Side" or "Consumer Reports." You have your experience, you can supply the online thread of reports from other travelers and it just may be enough to spark a news investigation. $121 is a lot of money when it's ripped out of your wallet unjustly. It would be a simple inquiry, wouldn't take much time or effort on your part and just might provide some interesting sleuthing too! If you want to pursue, email me privately and I can at least get you to the local news stations...

  20. We have frequently travelled that road but I guess we've been lucky. What a rip off. We certainly cannot afford to shell out $100 like that. What would happen if you just didn't pay up? They are not going to spend money chasing you for the fine are they?

  21. That's crazy! I wouldn't pay that. Your right to call it highway robbery!

  22. Virginia is a bad state period for Highway Parole men to get you. We have gotten tickets three or four times over the past 35 years. I'm certain most, if not all times were our fault, but the thing is they are out there just waiting for you. The sad truth of it is less expensive to pay the ticket than to contest it. :(

  23. Out of state license plates are easy pickings for speed traps. Thanks for your support of the Virginia judicial system, lol.

  24. There are many small town officers that make up any excuse to issue tickets for their town's sake. It's a fact. Many of them just don't protect and serve, sadly enough.

    Sorry to hear this has happened to you, Lee. Please let us know the outcome!


  25. You would think the police have more serious things to attend to than someone driving a bit fast but otherwise minding their own business. It's all about the cash.

  26. Angelsbark-- I've run across some reports that have already been done about this. I was doing a lot of internet research not long after it happened, but now I'm bored with it. I don't think anything will change much.

    Jo -- If I didn't pay I guess I might have a much bigger hassle on my hands if I ever got stopped in VA again.

    Eva -- Sometimes it's just easier to pay and then move on down the highway.

    Cathy -- If the ticket were some major amount then I might contest it, but cheaper now to take care of the ticket and forget about it.

    Dolorah-- Virginia is a beautiful state despite some of the legal issues I've faced there.

    Elizabeth -- The outcome is that I've already paid online. At least they make paying the ticket easier than it used to be.

    KC -- That matter of having better things to do has often crossed my mind, but the highway cops are just doing what they're paid to do.


  27. Highway robbery indeed. It's too bad. Sounds like a beautiful area. Is this a sign that the local government is corrupt? Hopefully one day some new blood shows up and finds a more decent way of generating income. Not sure how you would fight it. Although your fine is nothing to sneeze at, I always thought speeding tickets ranged in the hundreds of dollars. Maybe you got a lucky break if you look at it that way. Thanks for sharing. I'll be careful if I'm ever in that area.

  28. Buck-- I checked out the city/county government website and they look like just regular folk. I think the tickets are a form of easy revenue that they're getting by with doing. The ticket was less than the one I got in Vegas and probably less than one in CA. Oh well, this is just part of my past now and it's time to move on.


  29. Apparently Wytheville, VA has been a speed trap for many years. I was a student in Tennessee and living in Pennsylvania. In 1971 I got pulled over near Wytheville by an unmarked black Va State Patrol vehicle. I was escorted to the county sheriff's office where I paid a fine of which I can't recall. I think I might have been no more than 5 mph over the speed limit. I remember some other people at college saying Wytheville was a speed trap when I told them of my experience.


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