Pulled over for speeding? Here's a state trooper's perspective.
ST. PAUL — Mike Conlin was working and in a hurry, so he was speeding as he drove south on Interstate 35E. Unfortunately for Conlin, Jack Tiegs was waiting in the freeway median right where the speed limit dropped from 70 mph to 60.
The veteran state trooper clocked Conlin at 77 mph, turned out of the median and pulled the St. Paul man over onto a straight stretch of shoulder.
The August traffic stop was one of hundreds troopers in the State Patrol make every day, and Tiegs pulled it off with the same practiced approach he's used for 10 years working for the state.
Tiegs prefers "to let my speeders come to me," from a stationary roadside position. He picks his stakeout spots both for their clear view of the road and for how safe it will be to make a stop.
When on speed duty, he usually starts off low-tech: watching for cars that are outpacing traffic.
"We just can't catch everybody," said Tiegs. People only going a little over usually get a pass in favor of people ripping by at 10, 15 or 20 mph over the limit.
He often goes for the car moving fastest, but if a group of cars are all speeding at the same rate, he has to choose — and often chooses the car at the back of the pack, "because he's the easiest to pull over."
Once he's identified a likely speeder, Tiegs turns on his speed gun, called a Lidar, to get an initial speed reading as the vehicle approaches his stationary position.
That's just the beginning, though. If that initial reading confirms the speeding, Tiegs uses his patrol car's powerful acceleration to roar out of the median and into traffic. There, he gets a second or third speed reading from directly behind.
"It also makes for great evidence in court when you've got multiple clocks on a vehicle," Tiegs said. "Initially they might be going 79 or 80 miles an hour. Then it might go down to 76. 69. Well, in a 55 zone, those are all violations."
The whole process, from spotting a car to turning on the lights, can take 30 seconds or less.
Only when he's right behind a speeder will Tiegs turn on his lights and pull the driver over.
As Tiegs walks up to a pulled-over car along the side of the road, his mind and eyes are both racing, "making assessments on what's happening in the car." He looks in the back to note any passengers and pays special attention to any gun cases or other evidence of firearms he might see. Through all this time, Tieg's dash camera is recording video while a microphone on his body picks up sound.
At the driver's window, he tries to be polite but firm when he starts talking to the driver. He always identifies himself as an officer with the State Patrol and asks for license and proof of insurance.
"I know that this is a formal stop and they can be nervous, but I'm trying to be cordial," Tiegs said.
He's also watching how cordial the stopped driver is.
"As troopers we get a lot of discretion, especially with speeding violations," he said.
Being polite to the officer can be a good way to get a warning or cited for a lower speed. Politeness is no guarantee, though, especially for particularly fast drivers or those with long records.
"Attitude and demeanor is a factor. The speed you're driving is a factor," Tiegs said. "You could be the politest person in the world and have a clean driving record, but if you're 30 miles an hour over the speed limit, you're getting a ticket from me."
Tiegs will often cut a little bit of a break, as he did with Conlin. The St. Paul man was clocked at 17 mph over but got a ticket for 9 over.
The point, he said, is not to be punitive. It's to get drivers not to speed.
"The message is slow down, it's not worth it," said Tiegs. "Do you want put out money for a speeding ticket this month? I don't. Price isn't worth it, consequences that could happen if you were involved in a serious crash as a result of speeding, none of that stuff is worth it."
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