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Crackdown prompts question: Does Minnesota go easy on speeders?

July 15, 2018

OK, leadfoot drivers, Ol Smokey is out looking for you. Law enforcement from more than 300 agencies is in the midst of a statewide speed enforcement campaign running through Sunday.

Speeding has been commonplace on our roadways for decades, a habit seemingly deeply ingrained in our driving culture. Its still dangerous.

In 2016, speeding accounted for 27 percent of all fatal crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety show 88 people died in speed-related crashes on state roads in 2017. Property damage from speed-related crashes costs society more than $40.4 billion annually, the NHTSA says.

Court records show that police across Minnesota handed out 211,603 speeding tickets in 2017 and 212,068 the year before. Fines begin around $110 with court fees for going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Fines double at 20 mph over the limit, and motorists can lose their licenses for six months if cited for going 100 mph or faster.

But is Minnesota taking a hard enough stance against speeding scofflaws?

WalletHub ranked all 50 states in terms of how harsh or lenient they are when it comes to punishing those who hit the gas pedal too hard. The personal finance website compared the cost of speeding tickets, at what point speeding becomes reckless or aggressive driving, the penalties levied for those offenses, and the use of cameras to nab and fine motorists who floor it. The survey used data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to examine whether states have laws prohibiting highway racing, the effect that speeding tickets have on license suspensions, the jail time for multiple speeding offenses and insurance costs for drivers who get speeding tickets.

It turns out speeders get off easy in Minnesota compared to those in other states, the survey found. Minnesota tied for 34th, meaning the state was on the softer side of the scale. The state placed 25th for penalties associated with reckless driving and 36th for speed enforcement. Delaware was toughest on speeders, ranking first in the survey. Texas, with some of the highest speed limits in the nation, was the least strict.

Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, said the results dont paint a true picture of the hard line that police are taking here. The survey, he noted, rewarded states that assess points to drivers for multiple violations. Rack up too many points, and their license is suspended. Minnesota does not have a point system, but it does yank the licenses of drivers who accumulate too many speeding offenses over a set period of time. Minnesota does not use cameras to catch speeders, but that does not mean the state is turning a blind eye. You have to be careful how comparisons are made, he said.

Hanson points to a 7 percent drop in speed-related fatalities from 2013 to 2018 when compared with the five-year period of 2008 to 2012. Over that same period the number of citations issued has steadily gone up.

We cant enforce our way out of the problem, he said. Drivers have to make good decisions behind the wheel and drive in a respectful and legal manner.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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