On a remote stretch of road west of the Twin Cities earlier this month, a middle-age man in a Mustang flashed by troopers at nearly 150 miles per hour.
One of the 17,415 motorists ticketed from July 6 to July 21 as part of a statewide crackdown on speeders, Richard Bernhagen led the 12 whose speed exceeded triple digits. He was clocked at 148 miles per hour on July 17, roaring along Tagus Avenue near Hutchinson in his 2001 Ford Mustang GT, according to the State Patrol.
Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said that the 41-year-old driver from nearby Darwin explained to the state trooper who stopped him shortly before 2 p.m. that “I hadn’t driven it in a while and was airing it out. I was wrong. It was stupid, I know.”
The trooper wrote Bernhagen a ticket for going 145 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Earlier that afternoon, Bernhagen had passed an off-duty police officer from Morris, with the speeding Mustang coming “a little too close for comfort with an oncoming car during the pass,” said another patrol spokesman, Sgt. Jaci Sticha.
Far behind Bernhagen for the top spot during the crackdown was a motorist clocked at 114 mph who was stopped in southwestern Minnesota.
Bernhagen’s legal troubles behind the wheel have been extensive, though he had gone about seven years without a speeding ticket in Minnesota, according to state records. This is his fifth speeding ticket in the state, the previous being for merely going 70 in a 60.
He also was ticketed two times while a teenager for “unreasonable acceleration” and convicted twice later in life for drunken driving.
A message was left with Bernhagen’s family seeking comment about his latest ticket. He’s scheduled to appear Monday in McLeod County District Court in Glencoe.
Typically, a ticket for 10 mph over the limit in Minnesota draws a fine of more than $120. Motorists stopped at 20 mph over the limit face double the fine. Cracking 100 can mean loss of license for six months.
In Bernhagen’s case, his offense is off the monetary chart, according to McLeod County’s court administration office. The top end of the list of speeding fines notes that going 86 in a 55 incurs a $385 fine.
Driving too fast has contributed to 243 traffic deaths in Minnesota from 2010 to 2012, according to state records.
Speeds well above 100 mph are rare on Minnesota roads, but even this latest case pales in comparison to the driver in July 2010 who was ticketed for going 178 mph in his Corvette in Wadena County. Michael J. Johnson, 40, of Menahga, Minn., also was convicted of being drunk at the time.
On two wheels, 20-year-old Stillwater motorcyclist Samuel Tilley pleaded guilty in 2004 to going 205 mph in a 65 zone on Hwy. 61.