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North Dakota's the place to be if you're thinking of speeding

FARGO - North Dakota is a speeder's paradise. With substantially lower fines than its neighbors - just $10 for going 10 mph over the limit on some roads - the state is a blessing to fast-paced

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Traffic races past the Veteran's Boulevard exit Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO – North Dakota is a speeder’s paradise.

With substantially lower fines than its neighbors – just $10 for going 10 mph over the limit on some roads – the state is a blessing to fast-paced drivers who are sometimes surprised by the lenient penalties when they’re pulled over.

So it should come as no surprise that North Dakota recently took the top spot in a ranking by auto magazine Popular Mechanics of the best states to get caught speeding – a title that some in law enforcement say should not make the state proud.

State-mandated fines for city driving are too low to effectively deter speeding, said West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan.

In some cases, Reitan said, the fine “is really more of an inconvenience that the person was stopped, as opposed to them having any type of, you know, punitive action.”

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The $10 fine for speeding 10 mph over the limit is so low that it actually costs Reitan’s department more money to process the citation than the fine is worth, he said.

Some fine amounts set in state law decades ago have never been updated, even to account for inflation. Numerous bills that would change the system have come under legislators’ consideration in recent years but haven’t resulted in fines as high as in neighboring states, Reitan said.

“When you look at, or have conversations with, individuals that go to Minnesota or South Dakota, they change their driving behavior and drive more cautiously,” he said.

Fines for speeding on state highways and interstates are also “lower than a lot of states,” said North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson.

“I wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily the best state to speed in,” he said, but “it’s a good place to get away with speeding if you don’t mind paying the smaller fine.”

In a 65 mph zone, violators pay $20 for going 75 mph and $70 for going 85 mph, he said.

The fines are so low that “quite often” violators – especially those from out of state – are surprised by the fine they’ll have to pay, Iverson said.

He recalled one driver who was stopped for speeding four times between Valley City and Dickinson because the time he was saving “was worth more to him than … the fine that he was going to pay. And he made that blatantly obvious.”

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“That’s kind of a rare exception,” Iverson said, “but it does happen.”

Higher fines would do a better job of deterring speeding, which is a factor in the majority of highway crashes, Iverson said.

“It’s important, too, that we are at least maybe staying with inflation,” he said. “A $20 citation back in the 70s, you know, probably hurt a little bit.”

Reitan said the North Dakota League of Cities is proposing changes to the current fines in light of stop sign violations in the western part of the state.

Blowing through a stop sign carries a fine of $20 in North Dakota, $104 in South Dakota and $135 in Minnesota, Reitan said.

 

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