Motorcycle troopers troll metro Atlanta's interstates

“They don’t see you on a motorcycle and you can come up fast behind them,” said Cpl. Paul Collier, one of 20 troopers now assigned to the 2½-year-old unit.

That rear-view surprise has crept up on more metro motorists of late. In recent months  the State Patrol has doubled its number of patrol Harleys, in part to deal with Atlanta's epic traffic congestion.

Painted the colors of state trooper cars, the Harley’s are equipped with digital audio and video recorders that turn on when the blue lights are turned on and radar devices [different from a handheld laser “gun”] that can clock speeds of cars coming and going.

The primary reason the Harleys were integrated into the fleet was motorcycles get troopers through traffic quicker and to accidents  faster so wrecked cars can be moved off the roads sooner.

As an example, GSP notes the backup on the connector heading north into the city is not as far south as it once was.  "Before it was backing up at [Georgia Highway] 166 and now doesn't start until University Avenue,"  Lt. Paul Cosper, the spokesman for the agency.

Traffic flows almost two miles more before it slows in the northbound morning commute.

Maj. Mark McDonough, commanding officer of Patrol, said the motorcycles are “the most effective traffic enforcement vehicle out there.”

But they are used only on metro Atlanta interstates inside the I-285 Perimeter.

“The Atlanta traffic has become a stymied mess,” said Lt. Paul Cosper, the agency’s spokesman. “The [the Patrol] wanted to have a solution and the interstates are ours. It’s a gridlock at best.”

The motorcycles run only during daylight hours. At any time during those hours, about 17 troopers are patrolling on motorcycles.

“This [motorcycle unit] is a priority for us [the Patrol],” McDonough said. “And for now the priority is metro Atlanta.”

On each eight-hour shift, the motorcycle troopers will average of 53 stops and work about 13 accidents.

The unit started in January 2007 with 10 patrolmen. The force had doubled by the first of this year and in February there will be six more motorcycle patrolmen, who are now in “trooper school.”

It is self-supporting.

The unit gets fines collected on the tickets the motorcycle patrolmen issue. as long as they are inside I-285.  Otherwise, state law says fines from tickets given by troopers go to the local government where it was issued.

The unit’s budget is $300,000, which covers motorcycles, training, uniforms, gas and maintenance; the post commander is trained do simple repair and maintenance on the Harleys.

Since January 2007, their tickets have led to fines totaling almost $1.2 million by Oct. 31. In the fiscal year that ended last June 30, the unit’s took in $400,000.

Cosper pointed out that each year, income from tickets issued to interstate drivers inside the Perimeter increases and there is no concern that there won’t be enough money.

“What are our future intentions?” McDonough asked. “Grow.”

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