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State Patrol writing 80 percent more speeding tickets than just 3 years ago

Minnesota State Trooper Jack Tiegs gets ready to pursue a speeding car after using his hand-held laser to determine vehicle speed in St. Paul on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — People are getting more speeding tickets in Minnesota — a lot more.

State troopers wrote 44,772 tickets in 2014, or one for every 122 residents of the state. Just two years later, the number of State Patrol tickets had increased by more than 80 percent to 81,476. That's one ticket for every 68 Minnesota residents.

Col. Matt Langer, the chief of the State Patrol, says the increase in tickets is no accident. In early 2015, the Patrol made a conscious decision to focus more on speeding, along with distracted, impaired and drivers not belted in.

"As an organization that stands for traffic safety, we need to be making a difference in those four areas," Langer said. (The data the Pioneer Press obtained from the State Patrol includes only speeding violations.)

The patrol doesn't have quotas, so it hasn't ordered troopers to write more tickets. But it has made speed enforcement a bigger priority. So troopers out on patrol might focus on speeders instead of other potential violations.

Trooper Jack Tiegs, a 10-year veteran of the State Patrol, doesn't have any sense that he and his colleagues are writing dramatically more tickets — but said it's possible that small changes have added up.

"Maybe I'm doing a little bit more, maybe my partners are doing a little bit more," Tiegs said. "You multiply that number over 500 troopers, the number starts to snowball."

Aside from the year-over-year increase, tickets follow seasonal patterns. They peak every summer and hit a low every winter.

Langer said more people tend to speed in the summer, "a function, I think, of Minnesota climate." The highway patrol also often gets federal grants to fund speeding enforcement in peak summer months such as July.

Winter, meanwhile, sees fewer tickets for two reasons. One is that icy roads often lead drivers to slow down of their own volition. Additionally, troopers are busier responding to snow-related crashes and so aren't as available to work the speed gun.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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