Three years ago, when Lakeway resident Lance Mitchell launched his website, SpeedTrapAhead.org, he didn’t hide his intentions.
“Not a lot of people flash their lights to warn others nowadays,” he wrote. “But, I DO! And when I see a speed trap, I go back up the road a bit, and stand on the sidewalk, wearing my SpeedTrapAhead T-shirt.”
The site was soon hosting discussions on topics useful to a certain type of driver: Was crossing over a white line technically illegal or merely not recommended? Does state law require that you produce a driver’s license if detained?
Mitchell also started chronicling his own occasional acts of civil disruption, often accompanied by self-produced video.
“I saw a cop pull up in the parking lot of the old Lake Travis Elementary,” he wrote in March 2008. “About 1,000 feet up the road, there was a perfect spot for me to set up. So, there I stood, holding my 2 x 2 hand held sign, waving my other hand and pointing at the sign.”
With the determination of a superhero, he vowed to continue his crusade. “I’ll be out again soon! Any time, any place I see a cop blasting out radar, I’ll be not too far away, blasting out my message.”
It was a message many Lakeway drivers were ready to hear. A fast-growing community of 14,000 in northwestern Travis County, the city has a reputation for its unforgiving radar traps.
“I’ve heard that,” admitted Dede King of the Greater Lakeway Residents Association. “The police watch the traffic pretty well.”
“I don’t think we deserve the reputation,” said City Manager Steve Jones. But, he added, “I think we’re diligent in traffic enforcement. And it sends a message.”
Mitchell’s revolt hit a nerve. People began recognizing him at garage sales and the grocery store as the Speedtrapahead guy. Locals logged on to the website to support his crusade.
“I just saw you with your sign on Lohmans Crossing,” Dave wrote. “Way to go! I commend you on your gallantry!”
And, from jbythelake: “I saw you today and we REALLY appreciate what you are doing! My husband got a ticket the day we moved to Lakeway. Thanks again!!!!!”
And, on April 22, 2009, from Beth: “Just saw you being handcuffed and arrested in Lakeway. I’d like to know what you are being charged with.”
It turned out to be a complicated question.