Speederscan't believe it: Busted by an old pickup

ByChris Dixon

Tuesday,February7, 2006

Edition:FINAL, Section: LOCAL & STATE, Page B1


MOUNTPLEASANT — Rocketing into pursuit of another speeding driver,it's apparent that Mathew Pagliarini has found a traffic enforcementvehicle that suits him.

The MountPleasant traffic officer isn't cruising around in a stealthy Camaro,Mustang or Dodge Charger, but rather an off-the-shelf, American-made,six- cylinder-powered pickup truck.

Motorists havestarted noticing Pagliarini's rickety long-bed truck, outfitted withtinted windows and hidden blue lights, but he wants to limitdescriptions of the make and model for now. Police seized the truckin a drug raid, and Pagliarini said a newer, V-8 powered truck isexpected to arrive next month.

"I don't know anyother officers who drive (an unmarked) pickup truck," he said. "WhenI'm driving around with my wife in a normal car, we always seedrivers do crazy things that they wouldn't do if they saw a policecar. Now I can do something about it."

At the base ofthe James B. Edwards Bridge, which spans the Wando River onInterstate 526, Pagliarini fired up his hazard flashers and clockedcars and tractor-trailers consistently exceeding 75 mph. Just as heprepared to pursue a tailgating 18-wheeler, a Jeep Wrangler weavedthrough cars at 84 mph. A few minutes after hand-delivering itsdriver a citation, the pickup was passed at 75 mph by a tailgatingDodge Durango. "You could barely fit a paperclip between him and thatcar," Pagliarini said.

The perpetratorwas a commercial truck driver who said he was trying to catch up to asemi that had left some papers at the Wando port terminal. Though heslammed his hands on the steering wheel after being pulled over, thedriver, who asked that he not be identified, said he wasn't surprisedby the blue lights. "I know I was driving a little rough. I shouldn'thave been driving like that."

"I could havegiven him a following-too-close ticket," Pagliarini said. "That's$250 dollars and four points on his license, which would result in asuspension for his commercial driver's license. But I think I got mypoint across with a speeding ticket. I didn't want to take away theguy's livelihood."

As he satawaiting another speeder, a Department of Transportation rescuevehicle pulled alongside to render assistance. "Hey man, you'reblowing my cover," Pagliarini said.

A few minuteslater a Dodge Stratus blasted by at 83 mph. As he wrote theastonished driver a ticket, a Charleston County sheriff's deputypulled up to make sure the truck held a police officer.

"You never know,"the officer said. "You get some freaks driving around with bluelights. Last night two guys posing as police officers robbed somefolks in North Charleston."

If flashed by anunmarked car, Pagliarini recommended that nervous drivers acknowledgethe officer by turning on an interior light and waving. Driversshould then pull into the slow lane and continue driving untilreaching a well-lit or well-populated area. Cruising toward DanielIsland, Pagliarini pulled over a Hollywood resident in a ricketyChevy Malibu. Saying he was late for work, the 90-mph driver said hecouldn't believe it when he was stopped by a pickup truck. "I'll bedriving slower now for sure."

The driver thenspied the repository for much of Pagliarini's gear and, occasionally,his 1-year-old son. "You even got a baby seat in there? Oh, man, Idon't believe it."

Soon, Pagliariniwas gunning for another speeder. "At the beginning of my career Iliked a marked car because I wanted people to know I was a cop. Nowthat I've been doing this for a while, I like them not knowingbecause I like to see the dirty things people are up to. And I liketo catch them."

Reach Chris Dixon at745-5855 or cdixon@postandcourier.com.