Nevada troopers hop in semis and spot speeders, distracted drivers

The passenger seat of a semitrailer offers an exceptional view into the cab of passing vehicles.

Elevated above Las Vegas motorists on the 215 Beltway, Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Cooke said he spotted 48 drivers who were violating the law Wednesday.

As part of NHP’s “Badge on Board” campaign, Cooke said, troopers work together, targeting dangerous drivers on valley freeways by hunting them down in the most unsuspecting, unmarked police vehicle — an 18-wheeler.

Drivers using their cellphones proved to be the most problematic throughout this campaign, which ran Tuesday through Thursday, according to NHP trooper Kevin McNeal.

“During ‘Badge on Board,’ it’s by far the worst offense,” McNeal said about motorists who can’t resist using their mobile devices. That falls into the general category of distracted driving.

But it’s not exactly clear what cellphone use is prohibited while driving and what isn’t.

“It depends on how you read it,” McNeal said of the law against cellphone use behind the wheel.

Using a phone for GPS mapping or quickly dialing a phone number while driving, for example, is permitted, McNeal said. There are also exceptions for law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

Talking on the phone without a hands-free device and scrolling through a phone are considered distracted driving offenses, just like reading the newspaper or putting on makeup behind the wheel.

Getting a ticket for distracted driving would cost about $195, according to McNeal, though it varies by jurisdiction. If you get more than one, the cost increases.

But each case is “dealt with individually,” McNeal said. “They’re not all the same.”

Six troopers, including McNeal, travelled back-and-forth Wednesday on the southern Beltway from Buffalo Drive to Stephanie Street awaiting a radio call from Cooke, who was searching for scrollers and speeders from inside the 18-wheeler.

“It’s just like fishing. We’re not sure when or where we’re gonna find something,” said NHP commercial vehicle inspector Travis Perkins, who was in the driver’s seat of the semitrailer.

Once Cooke gave a vehicle description, the responding officer proceeds with the traffic stop, McNeal said.

An Arizona woman was driving eastbound on the Beltway when Cooke radioed McNeal that she was on her cellphone and headed in his direction. McNeal waited for her to pass, then he switched on the red and blue lights.

The woman claimed to be using the GPS on her phone, and after returning to his vehicle to visit the Nevada law library online, McNeal had no choice but to let her on her way without a citation. She had not broken the law, he said.

The three-day-long event also focuses on enforcing semitrailer driving safety, McNeal said.

There are “absolutely” harsher limits for truck drivers, and “every offense is a primary offense,” McNeal said. “They would kill someone easier than a vehicle driver.”

Contact Kimberly De La Cruz at or 702-383-0381. Find her on Twitter: @KimberlyinLV.

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