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Wendy Reuer, Published September 03 2010

Fargo caught for having most speed traps

A national organization for motorists released a list naming Fargo as having the most speed traps in the state.

The National Motorists Association named two cities in each state across the U.S. with the most user-reported speed traps. In North Dakota, Fargo nabbed the “honor” of having the most overall speed traps, and Grand Forks was cited as the city with the most traps in a city with a population of 100,000 or less.

The list is comprised of information from the website www.speedtrap.org, where motorists report the traps.

The National Motorists Association calls itself an advocate for drivers. The timing of the list’s release occurred this week to help motorists and families traveling over the Labor Day weekend avoid the “depressing and expensive holiday traffic ticket experience.”

NMA Executive Director Gary Biller said the focus of his organization is a push for engineering changes on roads, examining or changing the speed limits instead of enforcement to prevent speeding.

“The majority of the drivers will drive in their comfort zone, and if that comfort zone is over the posted speed limit, then the posted speed limit is too low,” Biller said.

NMA defines a speed trap as an area where the posted speed limit doesn’t match with the prevailing speeds being traveled.

“We’re kind of putting the onus back on the posted speed, not necessarily on the driver,” Biller said.

On the site, visitors can vote on each posting: “Yes, this is definitely a speed trap” or “No, this is definitely not a speed trap.”

“That is to lend some balance to the posting, so it’s not like one disgruntled driver posting. It’s not scientific; it’s strictly user-submitted information,” Biller said.

In Fargo, Sgt. Sgt. Mike Bernier, says traffic enforcement is no secret.

“Do we set up and enforce speeding laws? Yeah, we do that. We have officers that sit in certain locations and reinforce speed laws,” Bernier said.

However, he said, traffic enforcement is not a money-making venture.

“There’s no money to be made in enforcing traffic speeds. That’s not an issue. Most deaths in traffic fatalities in North Dakota are caused by DUI, speed, distracted driving and things like that,” Bernier said. “Our goal is to get people to slow down.”

The Fargo Police Department conducts traffic blitzes with marked and unmarked squad cars or motorcycles to target areas for speeding. The public is usually notified of the blitzes ahead of time.

Bernier said the entrapment issue is a myth.

“Entrapment means that you are getting people to do something that you normally wouldn’t do. Us being in an unmarked vehicle ­doesn’t cause you to speed,” Bernier said.

ND receives honor for best overall highways

While one civilian group would like states to look at traffic engineering to control speeding, another group names North Dakota as having the best-constructed highways in the nation. Drivers in Minnesota, however, are stuck in some of the worst traffic, along with California, Maryland, Michigan and Connecticut.

The Reason Foundation released its 19th Annual Highway Report this week. The study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories such as bridge condition, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition and number of unsafe narrow rural lanes.

Here are the rankings of states for most-efficient roads:

1. North Dakota

2. Montana

3. Kansas

4. New Mexico

5. Nebraska

25. Minnesota

North Dakota ranked second for best overall highways in 2000 and received the top billing in each year since 2001. Minnesota, on the other hand, ranked 12th in 2000 and slipped to 25th in 2009.

- The Reason Foundation

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530