SEATTLE — If you're driving on Interstate 5 near Marysville and you see a road worker in a green tractor on the median, you may want to check your speedometer. The "road worker" may be part of a Washington State Patrol undercover speed trap.
In two hours Wednesday, about a dozen speeding drivers were pulled over at the speed trap in this area north of Marysville that has been ranked third by the state Transportation Department for the number of cars driving faster than 90 mph.
The undercover trooper clocked cars using a laser speed gun while nearby troopers ticketed offenders. One woman was caught going 97 mph and had been leaning into the passenger's side of the car with only one hand on the steering wheel. She got a $538 ticket for negligent driving.
Using data gathered by sensors in the road, the department compiles quarterly speed reports. The most recent report showed that the top two areas for speeding are Interstate 90 near Preston, east of Seattle in King County, and I-5 at Woodland, north of Vancouver.
All three areas are being targeted with speed traps and the "Slow Down or Pay Up" program that began in Pierce and Snohomish counties late last year.
In Marysville, about 2,000 vehicles a month were caught driving faster than 90 mph during the third quarter of last year, according to the Transportation Department.
The highway north of Marysville has been the site of several cross-median, head-on fatality collisions. The department studied the problem and determined that the barriers failed to stop cars partly because of high speeds.
Most drivers who are pulled over for speeding say they were in a hurry, Trooper Kirk Rudeen said.
"Things are so busy in today's world, and so they're trying to make up time on the road," Rudeen said.
People driving more than 90 mph won't have enough time to react to hazards and, if they lose control, it's often fatal, Rudeen said.
Near Preston, I-90 is the worst area in the state for above-90 mph speeding. About 128 drivers a day were caught exceeding the 70-mph speed limit by more than 20 mph.
"Our research shows that about 40 percent of all fatal collisions on Washington roads are caused by excessive speed," said Penny Nerup, speeding program manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, who heads the "Slow Down or Pay Up" program.
In October and November, the state commission paid officers overtime to patrol areas in Pierce and Snohomish counties where many speed-related collisions occurred. The commission also posted signs in those areas.
More than 6,800 speeding tickets were issued in about three weeks in Pierce County, and more than 2,300 tickets were issued in Snohomish County in less than a week.
—The Associated Press