Highway Patrol troopers settle into new assignment in Mat-Su
Two troopers are settling into their new assignments after three months in the Mat-Su.
“Out here on the Glenn Highway, we’re looking for speed,” said Trooper Howie Peterson. “Speed is going to find us.”
In February, the Bureau of Highway Patrol shifted from covering the Seward Highway to focus troopers around the Valley. Peterson said drivers are noticing the added enforcement.
“People act very surprised when they get pulled over out here. They’re not used to getting pulled over,” Peterson said.
The Alaska State Troopers B Detachment in the Valley is stretched thin. The department is drastically understaffed. There are usually just five to six patrol troopers on one shift and they’re too busy with other calls to enforce traffic.
That’s where Trooper Peterson and his partner Trooper Tim Lewis come in.
“I can only hope when we do a traffic stop a whole bunch of people drive by and see what we’re doing and know law enforcement is out there and trying to make it safe for everybody,” Lewis said.
The Parks and Glenn highways are where they’ll find people speeding. Peterson pulled over a man going 84 mph in a 65 mph zone; the driver had a history of having a lead foot.
“Speeding 22 over, speeding nine over, erratic speed,” Peterson read from the multiple pages that popped up on his computer, noting that he stopped the driver in Girdwood back in 2010.
Peterson handed over a speeding ticket and a warning.
“Hey, going that fast with a child in the car is very dangerous. There’s no leniency on that,” he told them.
On the congested Knik-Goose Bay Road, the troopers carefully weigh the violations that warrant a stop.
“There are times when it’s hard to do a traffic stop because there are so many vehicles and turning around on someone and potentially causing an accident because of the high volume of traffic,” Lewis explained.
Throughout that day, Lewis stopped several people for seat belt violations and school zone speeding.
Peterson pulled over a car with excessively tinted windows. His tint meter showed the windows were only letting in 22% of the sunlight; legally at least 70% of light needs to get through.
“He can’t even see through the windows, it’s super dark," Peterson said. "He pulled out without stopping. I don’t even know if he can see if there are cars coming. They are way too dark, that’s for sure.”
It’s a correctable: a $320 ticket the driver won’t have to pay if he corrects the violation and removes the tint.
Peterson said equipment violations like that often lead to more serious charges.
“I got two DUIs just last month from tinted windows," he recalled. "I obtained probably over 15 driving revoked licenses from tinted windows.”
The troopers are pleased to be in the Valley after covering the Seward Highway for years. Lewis was first stationed in Palmer as a trooper; Peterson grew up in Wasilla.
“I like being able to do better to make the community better in the place I live,” Peterson said.
They hope their presence alone will encourage people to make better driving decisions.
“Wherever you’re going, we want you to get there safely,” Lewis said.
But if commuters aren't being safe, there’s a better chance they’ll get to meet one of these troopers.
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