The last thing drivers want to see are the flashing lights of a patrol car.
They might want to keep in mind several spots along Interstate 5 and state routes in Pierce County, where drivers are most likely to draw a traffic ticket.
The area along I-5 where troopers issued the most traffic tickets is milepost 129 near 84th Street, with 2,717 tickets last year, up from 1,636 issued in 2010, according to the Washington State Patrol.
Others areas that top the list are milepost 127 near the state Route 512 interchange and milepost 139 near Porter Way in Milton.
Areas on state Route 16 near the I-5 interchange also have a high number of tickets, with 2,191 issued between mileposts 1 and 2 last year.
One driver who recently ran afoul of the law was speeding down I-5 at 72 mph near Lacey in Thurston County. Trooper Guy Gill first tracked the car speed using a laser gun and then pulled it over near the Martin Way exit.
The driver, a Ridgeway resident, said she was listening to a book on tape and probably missed the speed limit sign, though she admitted to driving the same route at least once a week. She received a warning.
The exact cost of a ticket depends on the violation, as well as the officers discretion.
We ultimately have the discretion if we issue one at all or what the monetary fine is going to be, Gill said.
When it comes to speeding tickets, the costs fall into a matrix that rises in cost depending on how much over the speed limit the person is driving.
For example, a driver going five miles over in an area with a speed limit 40 mph or higher could get a $93 ticket.
Drivers caught driving 10 mph over in the same conditions could receive a $113 ticket or a $175 ticket for going 20 mph over the speed limit.
The number of troopers patrolling in Pierce County ranges from at least three to as many as 16, depending on whats going on that day and the need in neighboring counties, Gill said.
There is unforeseeable stuff we cant plan for, he said. There will always be troopers patrolling, a different number depending on where you are.
Troopers either are in traditional white patrol cars or going with the flow of traffic in unmarked cars designed to blend in. Troopers in the patrols Aggressive Driving Apprehension Team drive a variety of unmarked cars, including Dodge Chargers. Troopers also watch speeding vehicles from above in one of the departments five Cessna fixed-wing airplanes or hit the road on motorcycles, allowing them to weave in and out of traffic with more ease.
We can get out and into traffic quicker and arent such a visual impact on a motorcycle, Gill said.
Some areas have a larger trooper presence for a reason. More than a year ago the State Patrol started identifying saturation patrol zones, which are areas prone to more collisions. Pierce County has nine zones:
• I-5 from Gravelly Lake to 84th Street.
• I-5 from 56th Street to East T Street near the Tacoma Mall.
• State Route 16 from I-5 to the pedestrian overpass on Jackson Avenue.
• State Route 302 from state Route 16 to 154th Street.
• State Route 7 from 180th Street to 96th Street.
• State Route 512 I-5 to Golden Given Road East.
• State Route 512 from 94th Avenue East to the Puyallup River.
• State Route 161 from Thun Field Airport to state Route 512.
• State Route 410 from state Route 167 to Myers Road.
We work those areas looking for violations that cause collisions including speed, following too closely, distracted driving and aggressive driving, Gill said.
Patrolling areas where crashes often happen improves troopers response time to wrecks, he added.
Troopers work with the state Department of Transportations Incident Response Team to get vehicles involved in crashes off the road to avoid backups. The response program started in 1963.
They do roving during peak traffic periods in those locations, said Alice Finman, communications officer with the Transportation Department. The (crashed) cars can be a visual distraction, so we need to get them off the road as soon as possible.
Gill said the most frequent wrecks are fender-benders caused by drivers not paying attention and following too closely.
To help avoid lengthy backups, Gill said, drivers involved in minor wrecks should pull their vehicles off the interstate, even as far as taking the next exit if they can.
If you can steer it, clear it, Gill said. Its important to get off the freeway. We dont want a visual distraction.