“A Trooper's Perspective”
Duane Johnson- #280,
Oklahoma Highway Patrol
Thanks to the Boise City News for the opportunity to start this column and to those who have given me topics to discuss. Next week I will answer more direct questions about the law but this week I'd like to address an issue recently voiced to me.
The OHP very much encourages troopers to do safety talks at different functions and columns such as this one are considered good public relations because people can have their questions answered and everyone who reads the paper can learn about the law and safety issues by reading the answers.
I wrote this column in several newspapers for over five years in southeastern Oklahoma where I moved from but took a much needed vacation from writing publicly since moving to Cimarron County . I am happy to be doing this again and will try to have a column done each week. Sometimes that is simply not possible depending on how busy I am with patrol duties but I will try my best to do one weekly.
For those who may have wondered why I have been rather scarce in Cimarron County of late it is because I am serving as an “acting” Lieutenant currently and those duties require me to be in Guymon two or three days a week. This is a temporary assignment but may last several more months until a permanent Lt. can be found. I came to Cimarron County to live and work here and simply am not interested in promotion at this time so I will happily return to patrolling Cimarron County full-time when released from this assignment.
As for questions; I will start with perhaps the only major concern that has been publicly voiced to me since I've been living here which is now approaching a year. A local citizen in the community recently told us a few were wondering why we have been working a lot on county roads. I can only speak for myself but quite simply it is because I always have and because I feel that is what we are paid to do. We have a job to do and that includes patrolling ALL public roads. I was surprised when the concern was also mentioned that some could not understand why state troopers were even on county roads and that a few thought the speed limit was 65 on them. If you hear someone grumble about getting a ticket for speeding on a county road you might inquire how fast they were, going. If they can give a good reason for going 70, 80 mph or more on a county road pass it on to me. I haven't heard a good excuse for that yet. It is simply way too fast for a county road.
First of all the definition of a highway is ANY publicly maintained road which any part of is open to the public for vehicular travel. That is absolutely the legal definition of a highway in state law and the book we work out of. That means that even the most remote dirt road if maintained by the county in any way is a highway the same as U.S. 287. If there is an accident on a county road it will be a trooper who has to work it unless we are tied up and the sheriff or a deputy handles it for us. Troopers can work city streets if we choose to but generally try to leave that to local police if the town has a police department. I will not turn my head however if something happens in front of me.
As for the speed limit on county roads it always has been 55 mph unless otherwise posted. Many counties “downstate” have lowered the county road speed limits to 45 and some even to 40. I know of no counties which have increased the county road speed limit beyond 55. Few county roads can support speeds beyond 55 and I would suspect doing so could put counties at risk of liability when wrecks occur. In many areas of Oklahoma there are almost as many accidents on county roads as on state and U.S. highways. I do not consider my job to be only that as a “speed cop”. OHP units being seen in rural, remote areas are a deterrent to all criminal activity. Good troopers should try to be where the bad guys (and even good people who speed) don't think we will be. In closing I will say “I hate being predictable!!!” Be safe out there.
Boise City News