Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watch That Speedometer, Bub!

If you are a Maine police officer, please do not read any further.  I’m sure there are some funny cat photo websites that you would enjoy, and what follows is really not something you would be interested in anyway.  See you at the next post!

Are they gone?


Let’s talk about speeding.  Specifically, places in northern and eastern Maine where you definitely should not do it.  Even if you don’t drive in those areas and cannot envision a situation where you would need to, unless you and your vehicle are picked up by a wind funnel “Sharknado”-style and dropped in northern or eastern Maine, read on. I hope to capture your interest anyway. 

Again, unless you are with the police.  Then, it’s the funny cat photos I recommend.

I am not a real leadfoot driver.  My current vehicle is an SUV with all the get-up-and-go of a lawn tractor.  What it lacks in speed, it makes up for in power and comfort, so I’m okay with it.  Even before I got it, I seldom drove more than 5-10 miles over the speed limit, and then usually only on open highways.  I will admit that I did once have a testosterone-fueled hunger for speed, when I was in my teens.  Some friends and I decided to see if my ’72 Chevy Caprice would really reach the 110 mph mark on the speedometer on a flat straight stretch of highway. (It could.)  I shudder to think what could have happened that day when I look back at it, and certainly don’t encourage such behavior.  I got stopped for speeding only once, back when I was 16 and taking some friends on a ski trip.  The officer caught me doing 77 in a 55 mph zone, and suspected I was doing even more before he locked the radar on me. (He was right.)  The fine was steep for my teenage budget, and the whole thing was a wake-up call for me.  I started to ease off the gas pedal after that, and my driving record is as pure as the driven snow from that point forward.

Now let me be clear: you should never drive at an excessive or dangerous speed.  I think we would all agree on that.  But there are some stretches of road where it is very easy to creep up to 47-48 miles per hour without realizing it when you are supposed to be doing just 35.  And that’s breaking the law.  I do it sometimes and so do you.  Yes, you do, so don’t argue with me.  It’s not a big deal, we think, and often that is true.  However, there are some places where you are wisest to just stick to the speed limit, because for whatever reason, the police are especially picky there.

Northbound I-95 detour between Island Falls and Oakfield:  This detour has been in place for a few weeks now, and diverts all northbound interstate traffic through several small towns before rejoining the highway.  The police presence has been pretty constant all along the detour, and justifiably so.  A lot of vehicles are passing through some normally quiet, populated areas.  There is also a considerable Amish population here who travel the roads in horse-and-buggies, along with many older people and lots of farm equipment.  Keep it at the speed limit, fasten your seatbelts, and make sure your license plates are not obscured, as I have heard reports of all these things being reasons to get pulled over here.  And watch out for moose.  Seriously. It could be very bad for both you and the moose if you don’t.  The laws of physics don’t favor either of you.

The entrance to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, at the edge of the downtown area:  This is a favorite spot of Presque Isle police to catch speeders coming down the hill from the south on Route 1.  After miles and miles of 55 mph on that road, many find it tough to slow to the residential area speeds required coming into downtown Presque Isle. You really should slow down, to keep people safe and to avoid a ticket.  Plus, UMPI is my alma mater, so you should drive slow to see if they’ve erected a statue in my honor in front of the school yet.  I’m thinking it can’t be long now.

Downtown Monticello: This is another spot on Route 1, about 12 miles north of Houlton and 30 south of Presque Isle, where the speed limit goes from 55 to 45 to 30 and then back up again.  It’s a populated little village, and the police are quite vigilant about keeping speeders under control there.  Don’t get too cocky with similar speed limit changes in Bridgewater and Mars Hill either, unless you were already planning to make an involuntary donation to the state treasury.

I-95 between Houlton and Bangor: There are many turnarounds in the median where state troopers tend to sit, hoping to find someone putting the pedal to the metal as they jam out to some Lynyrd Skynyrd.  I’ve driven this highway more times than I can count, and it is among the prettiest and most mind-numbingly BORING stretches of road ever laid down.  Personally, my mind wanders when driving it. Some suggest that it never comes back.  Nevertheless, it is very easy to let your vehicle creep up to a high rate of speed without realizing it.  The police know this all too well and stake out I-95 fairly often.  Some of the most commonly used turnarounds for the police are the ones just before and just after the main Houlton exit, the Island Falls area, Medway, Lincoln, and any of those between Orono and Bangor.  There are speed limit changes from 75 to 65 at Orono and from 65 to 55 in Bangor, so be especially vigilant there. 

NOTE: Occasionally, there are speeding “stings” on the I-95 medians between the Bangor city exits.  Just because you’ve made it past one police car without getting stopped, don’t speed up.  Sometimes there is another one at the next median, and maybe even at the median after that too.  The traffic is thick there with lots of lane changes and a fairly narrow road, so it’s best to keep at the speed limit anyway, police presence or not.

Route 1 in Indian Township and Princeton: The police departments in these two towns are well-known in eastern and northern Maine for cracking down hard on speeders.  This busy highway passes through some pretty populated areas there with lots of pedestrians.  It is said the police departments there are quite strict about enforcement as well.  If the speed limit says 35 mph, then that is what you had better be doing, and no more.  I’ve had drivers riding on my tail shaking their heads at me for going exactly 25 in a 25 mph zone in Princeton on more than one occasion, but I don’t care.  I’m not getting a ticket just to keep some yahoo behind me happy, and chances are, I saved their speed demon butt from a ticket too.  Alas, the only gratitude I tend to get is a one-finger wave, it seems.

North Street in Houlton: Busy and straight with lots of swift traffic, it’s an easy place to creep up to 40 mph or so, but the speed limit is 25 and the local police will hold you to it, especially near the interstate ramps and as you are approaching the downtown area.  Much of the year, this street is riddled with potholes you could lose a Smart Car in, so that’s added incentive to keep it at the speed limit on North Street.

Union Street and Stillwater Avenue in Bangor: Two busy, straight, multi-lane roads with lots of traffic.  Almost everyone tools along at ten miles over the speed limit, and the multiple lanes makes it almost too easy to do so.  Bangor police could stop speeders there round the clock if they wanted to.  They don’t, but I’ve seen more vehicles pulled over by police on those two roads than the rest in Bangor put together.

I’m sure there are many more in the northern and eastern Maine area as well.  Please know that I am not encouraging excessive speed here amongst you, dear readers.  And I am certainly not trying to foil the police.  I’m sure they’d prefer to see you at the speed limit regardless.  I’m merely trying to keep you on your toes, so that your absentminded drift a few miles over the speed limit don’t result in a ticket.

Stay safe out there!  


  1. Mine was a 1975 Chrysler Newport, and we got it up to 115. It sounded like a kamikaze right before it hits the carrier, and was probably about as safe.

  2. Pure as the driven snow or driven on snow? Just checking....

    Princeton is "safe" every other day (I have no idea what day this is in the pattern) when the Sheriff's Dept is covering. When the staties are on, watch out. Township - I drive 34 and 24 to be on the safe side and never, ever make eye contact with the officer running radar. Ever. Watch your inspection sticker there, too.

  3. PS I just heard about the inspection sticker thing. It's not like I've been pulled over for it there...twice. Nope. It wasn't me.