EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 20, 2013

State police see more extreme speeding cases

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — New Hampshire State Police Capt. John LeLacheur clearly remembers that day some 20 years ago when he stopped a Corvette traveling 127 mph an hour on Route 101 in Raymond.

“I thought it was the most outrageous thing I ever saw,” he said.

LeLacheur, a state trooper at the time, said he occasionally stopped drivers going 80, 90 and even 100 mph. But not 127 mph.

“It was a very rare thing,” he said.

But not anymore.

On Saturday, a Stoneham, Mass., motorcyclist was driving 152 mph in a 65-mph zone on Interstate 93 in New Hampton, police say. The trooper who spotted the speeding driver contacted another trooper, who stopped the motorcyclist at the toll plaza in Hooksett — 45 miles away.

Edson Barbosa, 44, was charged with felony reckless conduct. Police said he was weaving in and out of traffic as well as speeding.

That’s the fastest LeLacheur recalls anyone ever being cited for. If Barbosa is convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison and a $2,000 fine, LeLacheur said.

But unlike the red convertible LeLacheur stopped two decades ago, motorcycles exceeding 100 mph are not rare, he said.

LeLacheur said state police have been seeing an increase in extreme speeding cases, with at least one person a month stopped for driving 120 to 130 mph or more.

He recalled an accident in Northfield last summer when a motorcyclist was killed while traveling 146 mph.

Last fall, a motorcycle accident on Route 101 in Stratham killed two people. Police believe the motorcycle had been traveling 119 mph before the crash.

“I think it’s getting worse,” he said. “Then, you factor in the distractions — texting, phone calling — and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

LeLacheur said it’s trend commonly seen on state highways as vehicles, especially motorcycles, are designed to reach higher speeds.

At least once a day, state police stop someone driving at least 90 to 100 mph. Many of these speeders are targeted by the state police air patrol, he said.

In Epping, there has been a problem with drag racing on Route 101. Ramps are sometimes blocked off by the drag racers, he said.

“We’re seeing speeds — unfortunately — increasing,” he said. “They push the limit and then double-push the limit. ... I don’t know why people are driving at these outrageous speeds.”

One person who pushed the limit, police said, was 34-year-old Cornelius Stanley of Lawrence. On June 10, Stanley was killed when he crashed his Ford F-150 pickup on I-93 in Salem.

Although state police have not said how fast Stanley was traveling, they said speed was certainly a factor in the crash. Witnesses reported he was also weaving in and out of traffic before the pickup struck a guardrail in the median and rolled over several times.

Another driver who pushed the limit was Alan Monas of Nashua, LeLacheur said.

Monas, 26, was killed when his motorcycle crashed in March on an Interstate 93 off-ramp in Manchester. Shortly before the crash, Monas was ticketed for traveling 86 mph on the F.E. Everett Turnpike, he said.

So far this year, 48 people have been killed in crashes on New Hampshire roads. Last year, there were 108 fatalities following 90 in 2011.

LeLacheur said state police don’t know why there has been such an increase in speeding cases, though designs that create faster, smoother-riding vehicles is definitely a factor.

“I think the equipment has gotten much better,” he said. “Everything is fuel-injected and turbo,” he said.

More people are buying high-powered motorcycles even though they may lack the experience to drive them, he said.

Last year, there was nearly a 4 percent increase in the number of motorcycles registered in New Hampshire, according to state Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Jim Van Dongen.

When speeders are stopped, they are usually cooperative, LeLacheur said.

But they must pay the price.

Exceeding the 65-mph speed limit by only one to five mph adds up to a $67 fine. The fine is $103 for driving six to 10 mph beyond the limit and rises to $361 for anyone driving up to 25 mph over. After that, be prepared to go before a judge to face more serious charges, LeLacheur said.

There’s a chance some drivers could be taking even more liberties under a bill passed by the Legislature that would increase the speed limit on I-93 from 65 to 70 north of Concord to the Vermont border. The bill is awaiting Gov Maggie Hassan’s signature.

Hassan’s spokesman, Marc Goldberg, has said the governor is inclined to sign the bill when it finally reaches her desk.

LeLacheur said his department is opposed to the bill.

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Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.