ROYALTON — A stretch of the southbound side of Interstate 89 is a hotspot for speeders traveling faster than 100 miles per hour and a member of the Vermont State Police's traffic safety unit has made a specialty of catching them.
Trooper Richard Slusser has a hidden spot on a long downhill stretch on a less-traveled section of the highway near the town line of Royalton and Sharon where during parts of the day he's in the shadows and the interstate is in the sun.
"People aren't looking for me there, it is a straight stretch of road and it's going downhill," said Slusser, a 10-year veteran trooper who focuses on traffic enforcement.
The real goal isn't to write tickets, it's to slow drivers down and make the roads safer.
Slusser said that public attention following a flurry of high-velocity speeders in September — including one clocked at 112 mph while on his way to a court appearance for another speeding ticket — alerted people who travel the road regularly to slow down. He went two months before catching another triple-digit driver: one from Massachusetts was arrested for driving 106 mph on Nov. 17 while three days later one from Ohio was clocked by radar at 103.
"So it appears now the people we are getting are out-of-staters who aren't reading the newspapers," Slusser said, who patrols with his drug-sniffing dog Drager.
Most of the speeders Slusser stops slow down when they see him, but not always. The speeder on his way to court last September didn't see Slusser and the trooper chased him 10 miles before he stopped. Slusser wouldn't say how fast he had to go to catch him.
While crashes are up slightly this year in Vermont, which is thought to be a result of inexpensive gas prices that are getting more people on the roads, the number of excessive speeders, defined as more than 30 mph above a posted speed of at least 60 mph, remains more or less constant.
In 2013 there were 70, last year 74. As of early October this year there had been 58, about average, Slusser said.
Vermont State Police Lt. Garry Scott said police get regular 911 calls about high-speed drivers across the state so it's not just Slusser's spot.
"That's just one stretch where a trooper can sit out there and do a good job of enforcing it," Scott said of the 65 mph interstate speed limit.
The state police are quick to publicize it when they apprehend drivers traveling at excessive speeds, partly to send a message to others that if they are caught going that fast their names and booking photos could end up on a news release.
"They don't recognize the actions can have severe consequences on the other side because if you lose control of your car at 100 miles an hour, 115 miles an hour," Scott said. "It's catastrophic what happens and people don't see that."