Picking up speed: Nebraska troopers issuing more high-speed tickets

April 29, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

Nebraska State Trooper
Nebraska State Trooper (Photo: NET News)

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2024 is off to a fast start. Just ask a Nebraska State Trooper. In the first 100 days of the year, troopers issued more high-speed tickets than any entire year in the past decade. Nebraska Public Media’s Dale Johnson talked about it with Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc.

DALE JOHNSON: Troopers have stopped nearly 300 drivers for speeding at over 100 mph and almost 1,400 drivers going over 90 mph. Colonel, I know that excessive speed was common in 2020 during the pandemic, but why hasn't it slowed down?

JOHN BOLDUC: Well Dale, that's a great question. We would sure love to have the motoring public be a little bit more careful out there. When it comes to excessive speed, clearly excessive speed is one of the big contributing factors to collisions, and especially injury and fatality collisions. So we're really working hard to try to bring those numbers down. Obviously, our troopers are doing a great job by detecting those excessive speeds and appropriately addressing it. But really, we just need folks to start thinking about what they're doing and not be in such a hurry, especially as we get into the busy summer season. We have a lot of construction zones out there, we have a lot more traffic on the roadways, as people are enjoying their well-deserved summer vacation, you get campers, boats and all kinds of vehicles traveling around our state. It’s best to just take a breath and give it some extra time. And don't be in such a hurry, because ultimately, these high speeds are going to have tragic consequences. And we have enough challenges on our roadways without this kind of input.

JOHNSON: We'll talk about work zones here in just a bit. But if you could, take me into that cruiser. There's a lot going on between the equipment in the cruiser and in the mind of a trooper during high-speed pursuits. Take me into that cruiser that's traveling down the highway, half the length of a football field every second.

BOLDUC: You're right, there is a lot going on. You know, our troopers go through a lot of training. Obviously, if somebody's going 100 mph and we clocked them with radar, we have to turn around and then catch up to that vehicle. So we have to drive very fast, too, and obviously we have to do that safely. So when we're trying to stop vehicles at that speed, there is an increased risk for our people, too, so that's something that I don't think people are really thinking about. We have to navigate other traffic at those speeds. We have to be communicating with our dispatcher. What is going on? We don't always know what's going on in that violator’s vehicle. Are they running from something? Are they just going fast? We don't know. So that creates a little bit of a heightened awareness level on behalf of the trooper in the car. They have to be really good at multitasking, they have to be really good at keeping safety first, safety for the public. And I want to make sure we're clear, Dale, that on most of these, speeding violations are just speeding violations. They're going fast, they're not necessarily a pursuit. The pursuit is when someone increases their speed to try to get away from a law enforcement officer. And most of these citations are not pursued. They're just excessive speed and we have to do our job to get them pulled over and get that behavior to change.

JOHNSON: Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc joining me on Nebraska Public Media. Let's shift to work zones nationally. We're coming off Work Zone Awareness Week across the country, nearly two people are killed in a work zone every day. Talk a bit about the inherent dangers that are associated with this time of year, construction season.

BOLDUC: Wow, that's just a really tragic statistic. You know, we do have a lot of work zones in Nebraska. We don't do that highway construction in the winter, for obvious reasons. So we cram it into the times of the year when it's more conducive. If you observe those work zones, you see that it's a pretty labor intensive process. We have heavy equipment, we have a lot of people, and they are focusing on their work. I mean, they're trying to get that rebar installed, they're trying to get that cement poured, they're focusing on their job. So they are not necessarily looking at traffic that might be infringing into their work zones. And if he's driven through those, and I know we all have, I mean, they're clearly marked. We have signage everywhere, lots of cones and barrels and barricades. And yet, somehow, some people because of impairment or distraction or excessive speed, they find themselves in those work zones. And that's the problem. So when you're entering a construction zone, you've got to pay attention, put the phone down, avoid those distractions,

JOHNSON: A lot of times the signage says stay off your cell phones, which brings me to the fact that Nebraska is not among 24 states making handheld cell phone use a primary offense. Should it be?

BOLDUC: Well, you know that's a policy decision that not made at my level, of course, but you know, I would just say anecdotally, I drive through states that have hand three laws and you see people violating that all the time. Really this comes down to common sense. Stopping a vehicle at normal speed limit is going to take about a football field, right? And if your eyes are on your phone, and then you look up and see an obstruction, or a car slow things down, or some other problem in the roadway ahead of us, your reaction time is automatically decreased and now you're asking for trouble.

JOHNSON: Colonel, thank you so much for your time.

BOLDUC: My pleasure, Dale. Good to talk to you.

JOHNSON: State Patrol Col. John Bolduc joining me on Nebraska Public Media. I’m Dale Johnson.