Why do state troopers go after speeders?

Published 9:04 am Thursday, November 8, 2012

Column: Jacalyn Sticha, Ask a Trooper

Question: Why does the State Patrol waste time writing speeding tickets when they could chase down more aggressive drivers like people who blow stop signs, cut you off or drive impaired?

Jacalyn Sticha

Answer: You are not alone in the way you perceive speeding violations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website states that research is showing that the public erroneously believes that speeding is not a great risk to safety or is not as serious as other traffic violations. Looking at all crashes in Minnesota last year the most cited factors were, in order of frequency: inattentive or distracted driving, failure to yield and illegal or unsafe speed. When looking at 2011 fatal crashes illegal or unsafe speed is the No. 1 factor cited.

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Speed is force and energy, thus trauma to our tissue. The more speed you have the more damage to the body.

Also, the faster we are traveling the less time it takes to cover distances, shortening the time it takes to travel a certain distance shortens our time to reason and react.  At higher speeds, the potential is greater for losing control of the vehicle and not regaining it. The driver traveling at high speeds is often also driving aggressively: abrupt lane changes, following too close and impatient with others.

The occupant protection built into a vehicle, seat belts, structural engineering, airbags, padded dashes and bolster and windshields to mention a few, are all incredibly effective. They are designed to displace, disperse or absorb as much force as possible before it gets to your body. But the faster you go the less effective they are at doing this. By exceeding limits you reduce the effectiveness of all occupant protection.

Speed shatters life. Slow down and arrive alive without a costly citation.

Texting is not OK

Question: Minnesota has laws against distracted driving, so why do we see so many drivers doing everything except driving? Are our the laws being enforced?

Answer: We are enforcing our distracted driving laws. In 2011 the Minnesota State Patrol wrote 2,587 citations (3,352 warnings) for inattentive driving and 431 for texting while driving (430 warnings), but not without difficulty.

Distracted driving from texting, cellphone use, eating or any of the many other distractions are not easily spotted. It can be difficult to know with a fair amount of certainty of an event happening inside the vehicle — unlike speed, following too close, no signaling etc., all of which are apparent.

Often other driving violations lead us to a distracted driver. The driver may then get a citation for one of the distracted driving laws and/or the traffic violation that caught our attention in the first place. Which is dependent on what the trooper finds from investigating and if there is an admission by the violator. With severe crashes, we may check phone records as part of the investigation.

One piece of the texting law not readily known is that texting is prohibited while in traffic in any way.

MSS169.475.2 Prohibition on use. No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device to compose, read or send an electronic message, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic.

This means when stopped at a signal, sign or at a standstill waiting for a train or crash to clear, it is illegal to text.  If you need to text, you need to pull off the roadway and out of traffic.

Inattentive and distracted driving is given credit for one third of all fatalities, injuries as well.  Driving is a full-time job, and each of us needs to take the responsibility.


Jacalyn Sticha is a sergeant with the Mankato district of the Minnesota State Patrol.