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Speeding tickets decline on interstates

FARGO -- High gas prices appear to be playing a role in drivers slowing down on North Dakota's interstate highways, but ticketing is up on other roads, and a Highway Patrol official says he can't explain why.

FARGO -- High gas prices appear to be playing a role in drivers slowing down on North Dakota's interstate highways, but ticketing is up on other roads, and a Highway Patrol official says he can't explain why.

State troopers issued 3,307 speeding tickets from Jan. 1 to June 30 on interstate highways where the posted speed limit is 75 mph.

That's down 20 percent from the first six months of 2007, when troopers wrote 4,159 tickets in 75-mph zones, according to Maj. Neil Johnson of the Highway Patrol.

During the same period, the number of tickets issued by the patrol in other speed zones increased more than 8 percent, from 13,543 to 14,681.

Johnson said it's logical to assume that high gas prices have something to do with fewer tickets being issued on interstate, but he's at a loss to explain the increase in tickets in other speed zones.

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"Does that mean they're trying to make up time in the slower zones? No, I wouldn't think so. I don't have a good answer for you," he said.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas late last week in North Dakota was $4.04, compared with $3.06 a year ago, according to AAA.

Factors involved

Several factors play into the numbers of tickets issued, Johnson said, including gas prices, road conditions during winter months and trooper staffing levels, although there wasn't any major difference in trooper vacancies during the periods compared.

Johnson said he recently noticed slower speeds on Interstate 94 while driving 65 mph on a trip to Dickinson, N.D.

"There were other people that were driving comparable to me, which I wouldn't say is real normal," he said.

With the increase in tickets in other speed zones, the total number of tickets issued by the patrol is actually up over the past six months.

Troopers issued 17,988 tickets from Jan. 1 to June 30 -- 286 more than during the first six months of 2007.

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But about 1,300 fewer speeding tickets were issued during the last 12 months compared with the previous 12 months. Troopers issued 39,103 tickets from July 1, 2007, to June 30, compared with 40,426 tickets during the previous 12 months.

Troopers wrote 8,244 tickets in 75-mph interstate zones during the past 12 months, compared with 9,720 tickets during the previous year -- a 15 percent decrease.

Minnesota tickets decline

Although statistics weren't available, Johnson said the number of speeding tickets issued is down in the southeast region of the state and up in the northwest region, where oil drilling activity is generating more traffic.

In Minnesota, the number of speeding tickets issued by the State Patrol dropped 9.5 percent from January through May compared with the first five months of 2007, said Maj. Michele Tuchner, patrol spokeswoman.

Troopers issued 28,395 tickets from Jan. 1 to May 31, compared with 31,384 tickets during the same period of 2007. June statistics won't be available until mid-July.

Echoing Johnson, Tuchner said the decrease could be attributed to several factors.

The State Patrol has about 30 vacant positions, as troopers have been retiring faster than they can be replaced, she said.

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The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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