MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin State Patrol issued only 1 percent of its speeding citations to drivers going one to 10 mph over the speed limit, according to 2013 traffic data analyzed by News 3.
From January to November, 2013, troopers wrote 45,798 traffic tickets for speeding on freeways and highways, in work areas and speed zones. Only 621 were issued to drivers speeding 1-10 mph over the limit.
"We're not out to write citations just to write citations," said Sgt. Ryan Chaffee, who oversees the northern Dane County State Patrol unit. "We want compliance with the law. If we can do that with a traffic warning, then that's what we'll do."
He cites the lack of staff and the fact that there is a significant amount of work and cost associated with a citation after it's written that some counties do not want to process tickets for only 1-10 mph over the limit.
Every Monday morning inside Courtoom 1A at the Dane County Courthouse, Court Commissioner Brian Asmus deals with drivers with tickets issued by the State Patrol. He said he is not surprised by the analysis of the agency's data.
"It's always 11 (mph over the limit) and up usually. It's rare that I see a ticket written for 1-10," Asmus said.
On freeways through Dane County, less than 1 percent of the speeding citations issued were for going 1-10 mph over the limit. State Patrol records show there 1,349 total tickets written and just 13 for the lowest possible speed violation.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Sgt. Chaffee took News 3 along for traffic enforcement on I-94 east of the Badger Interchange. Each of the drivers he pulled over for speeding were traveling less than 75 mph in a 65 mph zone. Each received warnings including a man who was driving without a license.
"I don't think I have to pile on numerous citations and create that much of a financial penalty in this situation," Chaffee said. "I think he realizes his mistake. The citation he's going to get for driving when he wasn't allowed to and the warning he'll get for speeding is enough to get him to change. And if he doesn't, then we deal with him again the future."
There are examples of people like that appearing in Asmus' courtroom. While he's heard more excuses for why people were speeding than the parents of a teenage driver, if they appear in his courtroom, one thing is guaranteed.
"Everybody here wants a non-moving violation, but you're speeding so we're not going to give you a non-moving violation," Asmus said. "For a lot of people, something over a hundred bucks probably hits the pocket pretty hard, so we hope there's a message there."
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