Minnesota authorities have cited three times more motorists for driving over 100 mph compared to the same period last year, as a growing number of drivers have taken advantage of the state’s empty roadways during the governor’s stay-home order.
“That is concerning for us,” said Lt. Gordon Shank, of the State Patrol. “People are taking more risks.”
Minnesota joins a growing number of states reporting a dramatic rise in citations for excessive speed, with authorities in some states clocking motorists at 150 mph on once-traffic clogged roadways.
State troopers issued 78 tickets to drivers caught traveling at more than 100 mph from March 27 to April 13. That compares with 22 during the same three-week period in 2019, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
On April 11, State Patrol Lt. Craig Isaacson said he pulled over five drivers in the west metro for excessive speeding, including a motorist clocked at 122 mph on Hwy. 169 near Lincoln Drive in Edina.
“That was the fastest car I ever recall tracking on radar or laser,” Isaacson said. “That was the first time I had that many in one shift. It was memorable due to the fact all were in 60 mph zones.”
More recently, troopers stopped a driver for going 104 mph in Euclid on April 24 and the next day ticketed a driver clocked at 122 mph on I-90 near Luverne.
Fines for going 20 mph over the speed limit are doubled, and those ticketed for traveling more than 100 mph can lose their license for six months, according to DPS.
Dangerous speed has been a problem in many states, too, with Georgia, Colorado, Massachusetts, Utah and Michigan reporting surges in high speeds. In California, drivers have been cited for going 150 mph through the heart of Oakland and San Francisco, which normally have some of the most congested freeways in the nation, said officer John Fransen, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate Division, which covers nine counties in the Bay Area.
Between March 19 and April 19, troopers in that division issued 389 citations to drivers caught going over 100 mph, a year-over-year increase of 87%.
“There is absolutely no excuse to blatantly disregard the safety of other people on the freeways,” Fransen said. “It’s mind-boggling to think it’s OK to put lives in jeopardy to try to break a speed record.”
Neighboring Iowa has also seen a huge increase in leadfoot drivers, with some of the highest speeders clocked at 150, 147 and 135 mph, said Sgt. Alex Dinkla with the Iowa State Patrol.
Tickets for drivers speeding in excess of 100 mph were up 50% in April in Iowa, and excuses run the gamut, Dinkla said. With the pandemic, “some think we are not out working,” he said. “It’s very alarming.”
Speeding is one of the leading causes of fatal and serious injury crashes in Minnesota, one reason troopers take a hard stand against it, Shank said. Faster speeds reduce reaction time, increase stopping distance and lead to more damage in a crash. In addition to high speeds, many of those caught also are weaving across lanes to overtake slower traffic, increasing the risk of a collision, Isaacson said.
“Vehicles are not designed for survivability at those speeds,” Fransen said.
Between March 16 and May 4, 45 people have died in crashes on Minnesota roads, which is 10 more than during the same period last year. For the year, the state has recorded 92 traffic deaths compared to 88 at this time in 2019, according to DPS.
Law enforcement across the nation are trying to put the brakes on excessive speed as the spring and summer travel season arrives and stay-home orders slacken.
For this weekend’s fishing opener, the Minnesota State Patrol will have extra enforcement, including airborne scouts watching for speeders, Shank said. He asked travelers to be extra eyes for law enforcement and call 911 to report speeders.
“The message is, ‘You are going to be caught,’ ” Iowa’s Dinkla said. “With less traffic out there, you have a less chance of blending in.”