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How fast do you have to go to get a ticket on MN highways?

ST. PAUL — A rule of thumb for many drivers is that's it's safe — at least for speeding tickets — to go 5 mph over the limit, and often safe to go as much as 10 mph over.

At least on Minnesota highways, that's almost entirely true. Out of more than 230,000 tickets the State Patrol has written since 2013, only 37 were for less than 5 mph over the limit. Tickets for speeders going between 5 and 10 mph over were more common, but still rare: nearly 97 percent of all ticketed drivers were going faster than 10 mph.

"It's so unfortunately abundantly easy to find drivers that are traveling 15, 20, 25 miles over the speed limit, (troopers) are not running out of work finding those egregious violations," said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol.

Trooper Jack Tiegs said he often sets his threshold for speeders at 15 mph over. He's less generous on rural interstates where the limit hits 70 mph. "I go to 10 miles an hour (there), because 80 miles an hour is very fast," Tiegs said.

The median speeding ticket in the last three years is for 16 mph over. But the most common ticket was 12 mph over — around 25 percent of all the tickets written in the past three years. Langer said he doesn't know why that's so common.

These statistics reflect what speed drivers were cited for driving — which is sometimes lower than how fast they actually were going. Troopers have discretion to cut drivers a break, writing them a warning or citing them for a slower speed than they were actually going.

Tiegs did just that earlier this month, when he clocked a St. Paul driver going 77 mph in a 60 mph zone on Interstate 35E north of downtown. The man received a ticket for going 9 mph over the limit.

"If I stop you and you've got no violations and this is the first time you've been stopped for speeding — part of our job is education. So should I give you a ticket the first time out?" Tiegs said. "Attitude and demeanor is a factor. The speed you're driving is a factor."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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