No Ohio state trooper writes more speeding tickets than John Williams.
From 2007 through 2012, Williams, a 12-year veteran of the Ohio HighwayPatrol, wrote an astounding 12,737 speeding tickets, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of 2 million OHP speeding tickets. That was 34 percent more than the second-place trooper.
Williams, who works the Ohio Turnpike between Woodville and Berea, was also the top ticket writer every year since 2008.
“That was news to me,” said the 37-year-old Williams, who is based at the Milan Post, south of Sandusky.
“Speed is not a No. 1 priority,” Williams said. “But it is a leading violation, especially on the turnpike. And it is also a crash-causing violation.”
This newspaper’s analysis found that the Ohio Turnpike was indeed the No. 1 road for speeding tickets, with at least 218,000 written during the six-year period. Interstate 71, which is about the same length, was second with more than 194,000, followed by I-70 and I-75.
Troopers who work the closed system of the turnpike also have fewer duties than other patrolmen, said patrol spokesperson Lt. Anne Ralston.
“On a routine basis, basically what he’s doing is strictly traffic enforcement on a turnpike,” Ralston said. “Obviously, he’d also be responding to crashes and calls for service, but there are a lot other things that a trooper might be doing that a turnpike trooper wouldn’t.
“I would say he’s probably in a prime spot.”
Still, Williams writes a lot more tickets than other turnpike troopers. But he doesn’t think that’s because he’s working harder than his colleagues.
“I’m just trying to stay busy,” he said. “I’m trying to be out there and be visible and let people see me.”
Another contributing factor is that Williams says he likes to work construction zones.
“We had a turnpike worker stuck and killed,” Williams said. “And I know what it’s like to be standing on the side of the road with traffic going by. So if I can sit in a construction zone and slow traffic down for those workers, I will.”
As to what speed leads to a ticket, Williams said it all depends on driving behaviors and conditions.
“I don’t have a certain standard,” he said. “I base my traffic stops on just the individual stop itself.
“Whether I write a ticket, it’s based on several factors. It can be weather. It can be road conditions, traffic volume. So it all depends.
“I’ve given tickets for 9 over during a snow storm, and I’ve given warnings for 15 over on a sunny day. So every traffic stop is different.”
As it turns out, Williams’ most ticketed speeds are slightly higher than that of an average Ohio trooper. His most ticketed speed is 83 mph, rather than 80, the speed written on most tickets — more than 300,000 statewide in the six years analyzed.
He writes the most tickets for 17 mph over the limit, which is more lenient than the most popular speed: 15 mph over.
Williams didn’t have an answer for why certain speeds turn up more than others on tickets. But it’s not because officers will round down to give drivers a break, he said.
“That traffic citation is a legal document,” Williams said. “We can’t just make up speeds or violations.”
Williams said he doesn’t take age, gender, race or driving record into account when he decides whether to issue a warning or a citation.
Like the patrol as a whole, though, Williams’ speeding tickets went more to younger drivers. The top five ages of drivers he ticketed were 19 through 23. And like the state as a whole, men get about twice as many of his tickets as women.
“My stops are all based on the violation, not who’s driving the vehicle,” Williams said. “When I go to stop a vehicle, my decision has already been made.
“A lot of things go into play as to whether I’m going to write a citation or not. But it has nothing to do with whether they’ve had a ticket before or not, or even how they treat me. If they’re nasty to me or whatnot, none of that plays into whether I’m going to give them a ticket or not.”
Williams said he tries to get the message across to younger drivers that they have to think beyond themselves.
“I do stress they’re also responsible for other people, passengers in the vehicle or other motorists around them. I focus on taking behavior of young drivers and making them aware of the correlation of their driving behaviors and the chance of them becoming involved in a traffic accident.”
And almost 13,000 speeding tickets later, Williams said he still believes tickets can change driving behavior.
“I do,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to pay a fine.
“I feel that enforcing the law, that I can change someone’s thinking and even promote good driving habits. I feel if I can change one person’s thinking, then maybe that will lead them to teach their children, future drivers, good habits.”