Three times on Wednesday, a 20-year-old man put the pedal to the metal in northern Minnesota. The result was the same each time: He was stopped by a state trooper and given a speeding ticket.
Troopers first caught the lead-foot motorist about 1:50 p.m. near Grand Rapids going 73 mph in an area with a speed limit of 60. About 20 minutes later, a trooper caught him traveling 76 mph in another 60 mph zone. The third trooper clocked him at 78 mph in a 65 mph zone about 4:20 p.m. near Bemidji, the man's hometown.
"A tough day for this slow learner," the patrol said in a tweet. And expensive, too — speeding tickets come with hundreds of dollars in fines.
Law enforcement across the state on Wednesday kicked off a weeklong campaign to stop speeding and aggressive driving, a problem that cropped up last year when traffic levels dropped when stay-at-home orders were issued. Motorists took advantage of the open roads to drive fast, and that behavior has continued.
The high speeds have been deadly. As of Wednesday, speeding has resulted in 56 deaths, up from 26 at this time last year — a 115% increase.
In May alone, nine of the 20 traffic fatalities were attributed to excess speed, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety said. A woman and her two children died Saturday in a speed-related crash. She was driving about 80 mph in a 45 mph zone on northbound Dunkirk Lane, Maple Grove police said.
Overall, preliminary data show 131 traffic deaths this year compared with 93 at this time in 2020, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) said. There have not been that many fatalities this early in the year since 2008, the DPS said.
"Saving dozens more from dying this year is possible if we all just slow down," said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol. "We can all control how fast we are going. By going the speed limit, you can reduce your risk of crashing and get home to your family at the end of the day."
Police were not conducting a crackdown in northern Minnesota on Wednesday when the three-time offender was stopped, but they were in northeastern and northwestern Minnesota on Thursday.
On Friday, law enforcement will be out across central and west-central Minnesota. Their attention will shift to the metro area on Monday, then to Itasca, Koochiching and St. Louis counties in northern Minnesota and the southeastern counties on Tuesday. The campaign will wrap up in the Mankato and Brainerd Lakes area Wednesday.
"High visibility law enforcement patrols may also be active over the weekend to cite speeding and aggressive drivers who recklessly disregard the lives of others on the road," the DPS warned.
State troopers have issued 25,729 speeding citations through April 29, including 325 motorists cited for going 100 mph or faster. Both totals are up from last year.
"Slow down," the patrol said in its tweet.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768