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Officers studying speed on Sunset
Sunset Drive.jpg
McMinnville Police Department is attempting to educate the driving public in regard to adhering to posted speed limits. This instructive effort is on a straight section of Sunset Drive that was the location of a recent rollover crash. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Think an electronic speed trailer is just flashing a warning to slow down? 

It’s actually a visual indication that a much larger effort is ongoing.

McMinnville Police Department purchased a portable speed trailer years ago. The trailers are designed to display drivers’ real-time speeds compared to the speed limit, as well as collect traffic count, speed and times throughout the day. The information can be used by the Police Department to help determine if, and when, there is a problem. 

What motorists likely did not observe was a speed box that was placed in the area first and prior to the speed trailer. 

“Thanks to the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, we recently purchased a speed box,” said McMinnville Police Lt. Mark Mara. “Basically, it’s a pole-mounted box so we can obtain information from vehicles that are going by. It has a built-in radar unit, along with a time stamp, so we cannot only determine if we have a speeding problem but also the times when it occurs. People don’t notice the box, so they go the speed that they normally would drive and we get to collect that data.” 

If it is determined that an issue exists with speed limit compliance, the next step will be placement of the visual -- the department’s speed trailer.

“While the speed box helps us discreetly gather information and doesn’t encourage motorists from changing their habits, the speed trailer is visible and about education,” said Mara. “We are gathering data from the speed trailer, as well, that we can analyze and determine if and when there is problem.” 

Enforcement comes after education, says Mara. 

“Officers are asked to do speed enforcement in those areas, tickets and warnings are issued. It’s the discretion of the officer to determine which would be the best course of action. I remember my dad told me ‘the best lessons in life are those that cost you money.’”

The process is not over. 

“After a reasonable amount of time passes, we put the speed box back out and see if a change in driving behaviors has occurred,” said Mara. “Hopefully, what we find is an improvement in speed limit compliance.”

Mara says this effort might be complicated, but it makes the roads safer.