Mt. Lemmon motorcycle speeders targeted

Tuesday, 15 April 1997
Inger Sandal
Young men crouched low on sleek racing motorcycles coming up fast in your rear-view mirror.

To Pima County Sheriff's Lt. Kathleen Brennan, it is an all too familiar sight on the Catalina Highway.

``Anything you can think you'd do as an unsafe driver they do - passing on corners, passing in no-passing zones,'' said Brennan, who has received ``numerous complaints'' about motorcyclists who speed, tailgate, race and harass other drivers on the winding, mountain roadway.

``The problem on Mount Lemmon is an ongoing issue,'' Brennan said.

``Operation Speed Racer,'' which puts deputies on the highway in undercover cars equipped with radar and video cameras, was launched last weekend to curb the problem before it heats up with the warmer temperatures.

The deputies with ``Operation Speed Racer'' are hard to spot, Brennan said, and ``we're going to do it at intermittent times so they won't know when we're up there or not.''

Deputies arrested four motorcyclists Saturday for reckless driving and issued three racing citations and two speeding citations.

Those motorcyclists were allowed to drive home, she said, but from now on drivers who get arrested will be taken to jail and their motorcycles impounded.

Most of the problem drivers have been men under age 30. And, she said, ``most of them tend to be in the military.''

Two of the drivers arrested Saturday were from Fort Huachuca and one was from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, she said. Names were unavailable yesterday, but she said she did not think any were officers.

Brennan said she plans to start contacting their military superiors because of the public safety risk.

2nd Lt. Mark Martin, a Davis-Monthan spokesman, could not confirm whether there have been violations by base personnel but said D-M will ``re-emphasize the importance of public safety'' and obeying traffic laws to all personnel.

A Fort Huachuca spokesman could not be reached late yesterday afternoon.

Brennan said a similar operation last year stopped more than 20 motorcyclists on one day.

Some of the problems come from solo riders, but Brennan said some of them ``are kind of organized.''

Some racers use the highway for unofficial time trials, she said, after they first ``scope it out to see if there are any police in the area.''

While the posted speed limit averages 35 mph, she said, ``we've had them cited at 63 mph. That's incredible. On a motorcycle it's suicidal.''

Brennan has received complaints of several motorcyclists boxing in solo female drivers on the highway.

Complaints have also come in from visitors at scenic overlooks. ``They just get real obnoxious and harass other people there at the overlook,'' she said.

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