That was a bit startling.
I saw the headline about a speed trap town being investigated and the thought came immediately to mind: Estelline, as in the small town just west of Childress, Texas.
I opened the link and saw that the town under investigation happens to be in Florida.
An allegation has been made that Waldo, Fla., is using speeding tickets to fatten its coffers. The city allegedly is trying to turn a profit on the backs of unsuspecting motorists.
Is this news? Really?
Maybe it is if Waldo’s city fathers and mothers can be convicted of doing what’s been alleged. Other towns all across the country have carried this reputation. I’ve always thought that nabbing motorists who don’t obey speed laws was one way the towns paid the bill. It’s a “revenue stream,” yes?
Let’s turn back to the other town, the one in Texas, that has a bit of reputation as a speed trap.
Flash back to early January 1995. I had just left Beaumont in my 1987 Honda Civic that was packed to the max with my possessions. I was driving northwest toward Amarillo to start my job at the Amarillo Globe-News. I spent the night in Fort Worth with friends — a lovely couple my wife and I have known for many years — before heading toward the High Plains.
I’ll never forget the words of advice from my friend, Tommy. “Be careful as you drive up toward Amarillo,” he said, “and be especially careful when you drive through Estelline. It’s a speed trap, man. They’ll get ya.” Tommy had spent some of his growing-up years in Amarillo, so he knows a bit about driving along U.S. 287 through the Panhandle.
He warned me. Message received.
But Estelline’s reputation remains intact.
As for Waldo, AAA — the motoring public’s watchdog organization — declares that the town is enough of a speed trap that it’s warning motorists with billboards. “AAA named the tiny town between Jacksonville and Gainesville one of only two ‘traffic traps’ nationwide and even placed an attention-getting billboard outside the limits of the town to warn drivers to slow down before entering,” according to The Associated Press.
Estelline “boasted” a similar billboard until about a year ago. Some disgruntled motorist apparently got popped by the city’s police officer — hey, the town has fewer than 200 residents — so the individual posted a billboard proclaiming the town to be a speed trap.
I’m not actually buying into the speed trap label that’s hung on Estelline all these years. I’m merely reporting what I’ve been told and what I’ve heard countless people in the Panhandle say to others when giving driving instructions between Amarillo and the Metroplex.
“Be sure to obey the speed limit signs as you approach these small towns,” the message goes, “and be really careful when you drive through Estelline.”
It’s tough having to live down an unflattering reputation.