What I Learned from the State Police

Travels with the Idaho State Police help answer the following question: What should you do if you see flashing lights in your mirror?

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

"What I Learned from the State Police" is the title of the Reporter's Notebook with NPR's Noah Adams has brought us. He's been to southeastern Idaho talking with the troopers.

NOAH ADAMS: I was sent to Idaho to do a story about interstate highways and how they are connected or not to the places they pass by. I just looked a map and found Pocatello - 50,000 people in a valley near the Snake River. The Idaho State Police had some stories waiting. The speed limit is 75, the roads are flat and fast, and this is the West.

Here is Lieutenant Eric Dayley.

Lieutenant ERIC DAYLEY (Idaho State Police): I stopped a guy one time and I said, sorry, I just checked your speed at 120 miles an hour. And he says, no, that can't be right because I had my cruise set right on a hundred.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ADAMS: That speed, Lieutenant Dayley mentioned, 120, has been the top end for the state police. They've been getting outrun. Now the Dodge Chargers have arrived - new, aggressively, powerful vehicles - but the troopers do not want to be chasing you at 140 miles an hour.

Lt. DAYLEY: I've seen a lot of fatality crashes in my career and - from babies to elderly folks dead. And to be quite honest with you, you try to repress those memories to - that's something you don't want to relive over and over and over, and kind of put it behind you and move on if not they eat you up. They would.

(Soundbite of police radio scanner)

ADAMS: I went out on patrol with one of the troopers and we sat in the median and watched the traffic. His radar could scan both sides of the interstate.

(Soundbite of car speeding by)

ADAMS: It was a good chance for me to ask, when you pull me over, sir, what do you want me to do? He said, it's simple. Put your hands up on the steering wheel so I can see them. This moment of approaching the car and the Idaho troopers come up to the passenger side, this is danger. The hard wait is up. Adrenaline rushes.

I was told 97 percent of the people they stop are good folks who just need help in learning how to drive more safely. Three percent are hardened criminals. And the trooper told me, the first thing I do when I walk up to a car is touch it. I want to leave my fingerprint in case it goes bad and something happens. I want my fingerprint to be evidence that I'd stop that vehicle on the highway.

(Soundbite of car speeding by)

SIMON: Reporter's Notebook from Idaho and NPR's Noah Adams.

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