SC town uses I-95 traffic cams to nab speeders

RIDGELAND, SC (WTOC) - Those driving from Miami to Maine, drivers will likely take Interstate 95. But one particular dangerous stretch of the highway in the Lowcountry has one town coming up with new ways to keep drivers safe and cut down on so called "super speeders."

Ridgeland has traffic safety unit equipped with cameras to help catch excessive speeders on the I-95.  Drivers who get caught may not get a citations right away, but one is likely to come in the mail.

Each day, close to 50,000 vehicles travel the 14-mile stretch of I-95 within the town limits of Ridgeland.

"We've clocked people as high as 111, 109, many around 100, many in the upper 90s," said Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges. "The difference in doing 95 to 100 and doing 70 -- the end result is tremendous."

In an effort to keep the roadway safe, the city of Ridgeland is launching the traffic unit on the interstate. The radar and two cameras are activated when drivers go above 81 mph.

"One camera captures the front of the vehicle and the driver and the second camera captures the rear of the vehicle and license plate," said Ridgeland police officer David Swinehamer.

Using that information, the officer inside the unit is able to pull up the drivers license, along with their name and address to send them a traffic ticket in the mail.

"No. 1, it's going to save lives and No. 2, it's going to protect police officers because they don't have to stand on the side of the road, where people are driving 85, 90, 100, to write a citation. It also saves taxpayers money," he said.

Although it's not the typical method drivers are used to, an officer is still at the scene and many officers like Swinehamer say it's more efficient.

"If you have four cars all traveling, at let's say 85 mph, an officer stopping someone can only stop one car at a time, where as this system we can issue a citation to all four drivers," he said.

So far, officers say this system is doing its job.

"The top speed so far has been 115 mph," said Chief Richard Woods. "We saw one last night of a lady going 85 mph putting on her eyeliner with two small children in the back."

The method with mixed reviews.

"I think its a good thing," said Mimi Taylor.

"I think it's a little Big Brother," said Charlene Moorison.

The traffic citations cost just as much as those written by officers on the roadway. Police have sent out 50 citations in the mail since they launched this new traffic unit at the beginning of the month. They have 150 more that will be sent out this week.

Ridgeland's mayor said the town won't see much of that money. "Forty percent goes to the state," said Hodges. "We're not trying to get rich. We're not trying to make a profit. We're trying to pay the bills."

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