By Kyle Meenan
First Coast News
LAWTEY, FL -- The AAA Road Club recently put up its third billboard on US-301 urging drivers to use caution ahead, calling the city of Lawtey, a "Speed Trap."
But a private citizen countered with a new billboard, defending local law enforcement's writing three to six hundred citations a month.
"There's no validity to it," counters Lawtey Police Captain Nathan Blom. "I mean, we do strictly enforce the laws here as far as speed goes. (But)if we don't do it, then who's going to do it? I mean triple A's not going to come down here and do it!"
Two things are clear as one stands at the Lawtey City limits where the posted speed drops from 55mph to 45mph. You'll see a lot of red lights as drivers hit their brakes, and quite often, blue lights further down the road for many who don't slow down.
"We are all about safety, and slowing these people down is one of 'em," said Captain Blom.
Statistically speaking. Blom says the speed enforcement works in saving lives.
"We've never had a fatality on this stretch of U.S. 301."
AAA Spokesman Randy Bly told First Coast News that in 2003, Lawtey and neighboring Stark got 25% and 31% respectively, of their annual revenues from traffic citations.
First Coast News asked Captain Blom once again, if Lawtey was a speed trap, as alleged by AAA. Do Lawtey's police officers ticket drivers for going only a few miles per hour over the speed limit?
Captain Blom responded by showing our cameras a stack of blue tickets written over the Super Bowl weekend.
Blom thumbed through the tickets one-by-one. In each case every driver ticketed had been exceeding the speed limit by at least ten miles per hour.
AAA has also complained the signs along US 301 didn't adequately warn drivers of the changing speed limits.
Each of the dozen or so signs posted along the 2-1/2 miles stretch of US 301 through Lawtey is highlighted with brightly colored reflective strips to draw attention to them.
"The majority of the people I stop say, 'I didn't even see the sign!' said Captain Blom, pointing north up US 301. "and if you ride back right here you can see there's yellow markers on all the signs."
Blom turned and pointed to the other signs nearby. "You can see the yellow marker on this sign up here that says 'speed strictly enforced,' The DOT was pressured by AAA to put those up."
The AAA Auto Club's trademark logo is nowhere to be found on its billboard proclaiming Lawtey a speed trap.
AAA Spokesman Randy Bly told First Coast News that while the ticketing activity of the Lawtey police is legal, he believed it is "certainly unethical."
Captain Blom smiled.
"Unethical?" said Blom, "what's unethical about law enforcement?"
First Coast News