Camera-equipped radar speed trailers in La Plata County could haunt a driver’s record rather than just flash a reminder to “slow down.”
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith said his office is testing upgraded speed trailers this fall that photograph speeders’ license plates. Drivers will be mailed written warnings and placed on a “naughty list” of drivers, he said.
The office plans to test three models of trailers before deciding which model to buy.
The first trailer arrived five weeks ago and has started collecting data about drivers in Forest Lakes and on County Road 203, he said.
Data about traffic patterns will help the office deploy deputies to areas that need additional enforcement, he said. The trailers also are intended to help improve safety on county roads, he said.
“Our goal is to modify behavior and get people to think about slowing down,” he said.
The new trailers will allow the Sheriff’s Office to send warning letters to speeders who are photographed twice, he said.
Drivers who are caught by a deputy after receiving a warning letter will receive a ticket, he said.
One of the tested trailers could also help with policing beyond traffic safety.
The trailer will automatically check to see whether a license plate matches those of stolen cars or are associated with people who have outstanding warrants, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office plans to request funding from La Plata County commissioners to purchase one of the new trailers next year, Smith said. The trailers cost $23,000 to $25,000 each, and the office would like to have two, he said.
While testing the first trailer in Forest Lakes, the Sheriff’s Office found that about 5% of the drivers were going fast enough to be ticketed, Smith said. Neighborhood-level data, similar to that collected in Forest Lakes, will allow the office to respond to complaints about speeding, he said.
None of the tested models can be used to issue tickets to drivers, Smith said. That process could be expensive and would require additional administrative work.
“My goal is traffic safety,” he said.
Durango traffic attorney Marshall Sumrall said drivers likely wouldn’t have a legal recourse against warning letters because no government action is being taken. Drivers are also not entitled to warnings if they are caught speeding, he said.
“Police can keep whatever internal records they want,” he said.