Jan. 25, 2004: God To Speeders in McIntosh County: You Are On Your Own

Here is some free advice you may find useful. If you (a) believe in God, (b) have a tendency to ignore posted speed limits and (c) get stopped for speeding in McIntosh County by Lt. Kenny Williams, don’t bother praying for a miracle — like talking your way out of a ticket. It won’t happen. Williams, a small, wiry man, says, “If I stop them, I ticket them.” Period.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with Williams and Deputy Ty Poppell of the McIntosh County police on what I consider one of the most dangerous roads in Georgia — Interstate 95, not far from the Florida line. I thought I was at the Daytona 500, except Daytona has a better class of speeders. Both officers work traffic patrol, but Poppell also handles drug investigations, along with his trusted partner, Shauna, an affable and effective nine-year-old lab. Poppell and Shauna stay busy. McIntosh County Sheriff Charles Jones says that more than 15 percent of the traffic stops in his county result in a drug arrest.

The McIntosh County police will give you some leeway over the posted 70 mph speed limits. I won’t tell you how much, but it is more generous than I would have imagined. That means that when they do stop you, you are driving somewhere near the speed of sound and you might as well be prepared to take your medicine. Fines range from $630 to $1,205 or more. By the way, the same rules don’t apply to the Georgia State Patrol. They can — and will — stop you at one mile over the speed limit.

Let me disabuse you of the notion that the McIntosh police are running a speed trap. They are not. They must be visible to motorists for at least 500 feet. Their radar runs a self-test after every stop to verify its accuracy and, if required, will run an additional test. Each stop is recorded on video to document that correct procedures were followed and to protect police officers from charges of improper conduct.

The officers hear speeding stories that range from predictable (“I was in a hurry to find a bathroom”) to priceless (“I am on my way to traffic court and I’m running late”). To the latter, Williams said, “Here, take this ticket with you and save yourself an extra trip.” When motorists say, “I have never had a speeding ticket in my life,” Williams, a man with a wry sense of humor, smiles and says, “Well, you won’t be able to say that anymore, will you?”

Lt. Williams hates radar detectors as much as I do. They are nothing but a means to circumvent the law and should be banned. Williams stopped a speeder with not one, but two radar detectors in his car. “Why do you have two detectors?” he asked. “One doesn’t work,” the driver said. “Looks like the other one doesn’t either,” Williams replied. “I just caught you.”

Even lawyers lose in a battle of wits with Kenny Williams. His fellow officers tell about the time Williams was on the witness stand and was asked by a defense attorney if he had administered a breathalyzer test to his client. Williams said he had. “Do you know how a breathalyzer works?” the attorney asked. Williams said he didn’t. “You don’t know how a breathalyzer works and yet you administered it to my client?” the attorney thundered. “Well,” said Williams, “I don’t understand how a telephone works either, but I know how to use it.” End of testimony.

Like many law enforcement agencies in Georgia, McIntosh police are low-paid. Some work two jobs to make ends meet. They deserve better for the risks they endure. Running down speeders and trying to stem the drug traffic on I-95 is dangerous work, and I admire their dedication. Having said that, if I am stopped for speeding in McIntosh County by Lt. Kenny Williams, I can assure you that he will (a) thank me for the kind words, (b) tell me how much he enjoyed having me ride with him and (c) give me a ticket. No use appealing to God. There are some things even He can’t change.