TxDOT error increased speeding tickets

August 13, 2009 3:12:44 AM PDT
A few weeks ago, we told you about a man who found a costly Texas Department of Transportation error. It helped him beat a speeding ticket and now hundreds of people in Montgomery County are doing the same thing. Joe Gadus was a Houston cop for 30 years. He knows there's no quota to write speeding tickets, but they had an informal arrangement.

"The old saying was three (tickets) a day keeps the sergeant away," said Gadus.

What he found would keep a lot of sergeants away.

Gadus' wife got a ticket on FM 1314 and instead of paying it right away, the old cop took a look at the road and found a big mistake.

The 40 mph speed limit sign was supposed to be a 50 mph sign and even though TxDOT knew it was wrong, and told crews to fix it, the wrong speed limit sign stayed in place for more than a year.

"TxDOT screwed up and the police officers and deputies out there used it as a fishing hole and took full advantage of the mistake," said Gadus.

To prove it, Gadus got a copy of every speeding ticket written on the highway when the sign was wrong. The highway FM 1314 starts in Conroe. As you leave Conroe, there were just a handful of tickets at those intersections. It was same thing as you get closer to Highway 59.

However, when drivers got close to that wrong stop sign, the number of tickets skyrockets. Where there were just a few dozen at most, there are more than 1,000 over the last year where the sign was incorrect.

"The deputies and troopers that worked that stretch were able to write a lot of tickets," said Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

The numbers got the attention of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, but they assure us they didn't know the sign was wrong. That is apparently TxDOT's job.

"There was no grand conspiracy or hidden collusion to do anything other than effectively enforce the speed laws," said Chief Deputy McDaniel.

However, Gadus is still willing to fight his fight.

"It cost me more money and time and effort to buy records than it would to pay the fine, but I am willing to go all the way on this," he said.

Since we originally told you about the error, dozens of tickets have been dismissed. Many more could be dismissed or even refunded in the next few months.

To ensure fairness, the Montgomery County District Attorney told us in the future it will review the cases that have already been disposed of, including fines that have already been paid.

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