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Hair-Dryer-Wielding Montana Woman Targets Speeders with Fake Radar Gun

Sebastian Blanco
Photo credit: P. Baumgartner via Facebook

From Car and Driver

  • Montana's KPAX reported on Patti Baumgartner of the Kalispell area, who sat at roadside holding up a hair dryer so drivers might think it was a radar gun and slow down.
  • Her 15 minutes of internet fame also shone a light on Trooper Noah Pesola, whose social-media safety efforts are often humorous.
  • He does point out, though, that there were 92 traffic fatalities in Montana by mid-July this year.

It's an old trick, but in this case, at least it got people's attention. There have been more than a few fake speed-trap cameras used around the world, from a DIY effort made from a drain pipe and an old beer mat in the U.K. to decoys once installed by police forces in a Maryland town. The effort in all these cases is the same: to get drivers to slow down. A Montana grandmother decided to join the trend armed with nothing but a hair dryer, and it might have even fooled some drivers. For her efforts, she was made an honorary trooper by the local police.

This summer, Patti Baumgartner pulled a lawn chair to the side of the road and simply pointed her hair dryer at passing cars to get them to slow down in the area where her grandchildren live, which is south of Kalispell, a small city of about 23,000 near Glacier National Park. She was proud of her efforts and threw up some pictures on Facebook. It's just the kind of thing that has the potential to go viral, and that's exactly what happened. The Montana Highway Patrol's Trooper Noah Pesola was so impressed that he tracked Baumgartner down to give her a hat and a badge (well, a sticker badge) for her efforts.

Pesola has made it his personal Twitter feed's mission to share all kinds of safe driving rules, including some that must come in handy often in Montana: "If you are in a rental car and hit a deer at 6:45 a.m., don't wait until 11 a.m. to call . . . I promise it will save heartburn with the rental company." For motorcyclists, he noted that if there are four or more cars behind a bike, the biker needs to pull over and let them pass, otherwise it is considered impeding traffic. He also let his followers know that you shouldn't swerve for deer and that there's no speed limit grace period when you're going down a hill.

Pesola's getting attention for humor, but not always: He posted on July 22: "42 fatal crashes in 45 days across Montana." That puts Baumgartner's fake speed gun into perspective.

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