It's almost Spring Break time and there will be lots of happy travelers heading to beaches and other resorts in our region for a bit of rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, nothing can ruin a trip like having your entire budget busted on a speeding ticket.

Some of the most notorious speed traps in the United States used to be in Texas. Patton Village annexed a one-mile strip of U.S. 59 in 1971 and started legalized highway robbery.

The town deployed unmarked police cars and radar guns. The city eventually raised 90% of its operating budget from traffic tickets. Finally, in 1989, they pulled over the wrong guy. A state legislator successfully passed legislation in 1989 to cap the money small towns could generate from traffic enforcement at 30%

It's still happening, though. The law puts enforcement of the statute on the honor system and a legal loophole means almost no violators are ever held accountable.

It is supposed to be illegal for Texas towns to require officers to meet quotas. Yet many still do.

Even more regulation, like a statute to prohibit towns with a population of less than 5,000 from using radar on the state's busiest highways and requiring towns that earn more than 30% of their income from traffic fines to turn the excess earnings over to the state, has had a negligible effect.

In fact, in 2019, Governing Magazine identified Texas as among the country's top states with communities whose budgets depend heavily on collecting traffic fines.

The main argument is that this increased speed enforcement saves lives. The facts don't substantiate this, however. According to Scott Henson, a researcher at the criminal justice nonprofit Just Liberty, in an interview with The Houston Chronicle said:

When traffic enforcement was reduced by more than half, we saw no increase in traffic fatalities — and even a slight decline in fatalities per mile driven,” he said. “I understand why (police) do it and believe it has that effect — but the data doesn’t show that.”

If you're planning a trip to spring break destinations, it is good to know that San Angelo and Tom Green County are not on the list of jurisdictions in Texas that abuse traffic stops to raise revenue.

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Our area has some towns to watch out for excessive speed traps. They include Ballinger, Winters, Robert Lee, Sterling City, Mertzon, Junction and Menard.

Overall, the most prominent speed traps statewide are in communities that line I-35 between Austin and Dallas and along I-45 between Houston and Dallas.

Here are some others:

Glen Rose

Palo Pinto County

Palmer

Ferris

W. Takakoni

Bruceville-Eddy

Buckholtz

Hays County

Rosebud

Lott

Riesel

Richland

Eustace

Corrigan

Wells

Mount Enterprise

Savoy

Chillicothe

If you're traveling on I-20 through Sonora, slow down it is a certified Texas speed trap location.  Another trap closer to the coast is Gregory, just off I-37 north of Corpus Christi.

Wherever your travels take you this spring and summer, here's wishing you get there safe and enjoy some Buc-ees jerky along the way.

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