Beyond the Tickets

Beyond the Tickets

A hint for anyone who's tempted to speed on Ashburn Village Boulevard's welcoming stretches: Don't.

Residents, the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to make the road an "enhanced zone," meaning the base ticket for speeding is $200. It's one of 18 such zones in the county.

Add on top of that $5 per mile above the 35 mph speed limit.

"It's not uncommon for the average ticket you get on Ashburn Village Boulevard to be $300," said Sgt. William Nugent.

That's one of the helpful tips the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office's Motor Squad Ñ in other words, motorcycle cops Ñ has to offer potential speeders.

Here's another: with its laser radar, or LIDAR, a deputy by the side of the road can gauge a car's speed from 3,000 feet away.

They usually wait until about 1,200 feet to get an official speed, however.

And if a standing deputy does pull over a speeder, forget sweet-talking out of the ticket.

"I pretty much know when I step out in traffic, I'm going to write that ticket," said Deputy First Class Greg Ahlemann.

But speeders are safe from tickets from cops on bikes on Loudoun's most dangerous roads, if they dare to speed there. A motorcycle deputy will only pull over a car if there's a clean sight line for oncoming traffic.

THE COUNTY'S five-member motor squad is a tight-knit group of officers who love motorcycles.

They love them enough to be on call 24 hours a day, and ride them regularly five or six hours a day, even in formal dress on a stifling hot day, like they did last week when they lead a funeral procession for a fellow deputy's father.

The squad's five Harley Davidsons are just like any other Harley Davidsons, only inscribed with Sheriff's Office insignia and complete with radio, radar, flashing lights and a siren that can break a car window, "if it's aimed right," Nugent said.

The bikes are an improvement from the motor squad's first vehicle: a 400cc Yamaha dirt bike donated to the Sheriff's Office in 1987 that was used to patrol the W&OD Trail.

But with just five motorcycles for four deputies and one sergeant, getting on the squad is an achievement. Openings in the Traffic Safety Unit, which includes the motor squad, accident reconstruction unit and the safety inspection unit, are very scarce.

Last year, there were four openings Ñ but that's only because the unit was expanded by four.

So cops who want to ride motorcycles must go through a rigorous application, multiple interviews and an intense two-week bike riding training program before acceptance.

Once in, however, they stay.

"I think there's just a different closeness of the guys," Ahlemann said. "When you're riding out there, you're really putting your life on the line."

MOTORCYCLE COPS don't just pull over speeders and lead funeral processions.

They've got all the powers of any other deputy on the force, meaning that if a pulled-over speeder starts making trouble, or appears drunk, the motor squad members can take care of it.

"If you escalate into something like that, you make an arrest," said Deputy First Class Dev Clark.

But even when the jobs are small, the motor squad helps wherever it can. Car accidents are regular work for the members, who can maneuver into small spaces a squad car can't reach.

"We're there," Nugent said. "We direct traffic or hold a stick. We assist."