What’s your hurry?

We’re generally mindful of the construction zone speed limits now placed on Interstate 94 in the east metro, even though going 45 mph is risky business for the law-abiding. One can almost read the texts on the phones of the drivers behind.

On Friday, several cars went racing past — police K-9 units from Wisconsin, Burnsville, St. Paul, and some other suburbs. They weren’t on an emergency call; it’s just that 45 mph is just too slow for important people who have places to be.

That doesn’t stop MnDOT from continuing to ask people to slow down, as it does again in Tim Harlow’s column in the Star Tribune, focusing on I-94 on the other side of the Twin Cities.

Here’s the part that surprised us at first: MnDOT pays the State Patrol to enforce the speed limit.

MnDOT is paying the patrol $75 to $100 an hour to watch over the work zone at various times of the day and tag leadfoots. A trooper nabbed one driver clocked at 74 mph where the speed limit is 55. Troopers have also cited drivers for other violations such as not wearing a seat belt, drifting over lanes and driving with a suspended driver’s license, said Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

“Blue and red lights are our saving grace,” said John Sloan, project manager for PCI Roads, the company MnDOT hired to carry out the $46 million project to repair 50 bridges and resurface the road. Police presence and the threat of a $300 fine for drivers caught speeding in a cone zone might have the desired effect. “If traffic reacted the same way to orange lights, there would be a different story here.”

Presumably, the State Patrol officers being paid are off-duty and working overtime shifts.

“I see people fly by me all day long,” Sloan said. “People don’t listen to the speed limit. They get in the habit of going 70 in a 60, and now there are workers and 30,000-pound machines right next to the driving lane. There are a lot of hazards there and the workers feel unsafe. There just seems to be a lack of common sense.”

And math skills. Driving at 60 instead of 45 through the duration of the east side’s project from Woodbury to St. Paul saves about 60 seconds.

No workers have been killed on the I-94 project since it started last year and resumed a few weeks ago.

  • Anna

    Years ago as a rehab nurse, I took care of a highway worker who was thrown 300 feet by a driver speeding through a work zone in Winona, MN.

    His left leg was shattered by the accident and he was in a coma from head injuries for 2 months. He was just lucky to be alive. His height (6’3″) is likely what saved him. Someone of shorter stature would have been killed on impact.

    What is so damn important that you can’t slow down in a work zone? Is it worth the life of someone else just doing their job?

    Leave 15 minutes earlier for your commute into work or take alternative routes.

    These guys work in all kinds of weather, including summer heat waves. They deserve your consideration and respect.

    Like the MNDot signs say “Give ’em a brake!”

    • Al

      It shouldn’t take a reminder like this, but sometimes it does. Thanks.

  • jon

    $75-$100 an hour, each ticket net’s $300…
    Base pay for a trooper is something like $25 an hour… let’s assume it’s over time, double time even, $50 an hour… (that bit of rounding should accommodate, that some troopers probably aren’t getting base pay.)
    Presumably an officer can get more than one ticket in per hour.

    who gets to pocket the extra cash?

  • Jack

    Maybe it’s time to lower the speed limit as suggested in the article. Maybe that would get the point across.

    I went through that zone a couple weekends ago and was surprised that the speed limit hadn’t been adjusted.

  • Will

    On my walk last Friday evening I was almost hit by a driver who just wasn’t paying attention, he wasn’t on his phone and the sun wasn’t in his eyes, he just flat out didn’t bother to look to his left. It was so close I ended up having to put my hand on the hood and yell at him to stop. The guy seemed surprised to see me, he didn’t roll down his windows, he didn’t apologize and he seemed to be an older guy so maybe he just couldn’t see or was just inattentive with his driving. Everyone should pay attention while driving, be aware of your surroundings!

    • There was an interesting point in the Car Talk Q&A in the Saturday Strib which I hadn’t though of before. Because of the need to improve gas mileage, car designers are slanting the windshields more and more for aerodynamic reasons. The unintended consequence of this is that the roof posts create tremendous blind spots now on the left and right and drivers haven’t compensated by being more careful on left and right turns.

      • Al

        My van is HORRIBLE for this. Hate it. The road to day care winds twisting and turning through a development with a lot of running kids, and I take it at about 5MPH because I’m so paranoid someone will pop out from behind my roof post blind spots.

        • Rob

          Getting a different vehicle with smaller blind spots?

          • Al

            I’d love that. I had one. Then we had twins.

      • wjc

        So true. I find myself craning forward and back pretty often to ensure that I am checking that blind spot.

      • Will

        That’s possible that I just happened to be in his blind spot but I had my dog with and he had a car from the late 1990’s…so I’m not sure how he didn’t see me or the dog and just be a bit more aware. It was funny because I waited for a van to go first (it was in the walking path when I got to the intersection) and then walked out into the intersection. I was even aware of the direction of the sun to make sure it wouldn’t be in his eyes (it was behind the car). He had a ton of time to see what was going on since already stopped for the van ahead of him. Just mind blowing he didn’t roll down a window and say sorry.

      • Jerry

        That and the A and B pillars are wider to contain airbags.

  • Lobd

    Thinking about this– unfortunately a lot of people don’t have the luxury of time to leave 15 minutes early. They are trying to get their kids to daycare and then to work (or the reverse) in a very tight frame, because if they are late or early they pay extra. Or they get fired, because commerce doesn’t stop for traffic cones. Just get up earlier? Well, if they already are barely getting 6 hours of sleep because they have to work 2 jobs and feed their kids, assuming they can get up 15 minutes earlier is actually asking them to give up a lot of sleep. Many of them may be acting in their own best interests for reasons we may not understand coming from our comfy little chairs. They still have to slow down, but they don’t have to be pleasant about it. We need to stop being so judgmental.

    • Jeff C.

      Are you defending people who speed through work-zones? It sounds like you are. And, unless I missed something, nobody said that the drivers need to be “pleasant” about slowing down – they just need to do it.

      • Lobd

        No, just adding perspective. The problem of speeding is sometimes more complicated than we think.
        Of course they need to slow down, and they should get fined if they don’t.
        Why do you speed? We all do it somewhere– in work zones, down neighborhood streets, going North when nobody is around, when we are in our routine cruising down Summit. Why do you do it?

        • Jeff C.

          Personally, I try not to. In town, going 35 instead of 30 usually doesn’t save any time – it just gets me to the next red light faster. I’ve pointed out to my son that someone who is one car ahead of us and driving aggressively is still one car ahead of us several lights later. On the highway, the mileage drops significantly over 70 and the time difference between driving 65 and 70 is insignificant. If, for example, I’m driving to Duluth, I can get there 10 minutes earlier if I go 70 instead of 65 – big whoop. The biggest reason why I sometimes speed is because I worry about getting hit from behind if I’m going under the speed limit. So I end up going a bit over sometimes, but not more than 5 miles over.

          Why do you do it?

          • Rob

            Tailgaters don’t care how fast you’re going. If you speed up, so will they. And of course if you’re hit from behind while going faster, the chances are higher that the crash will be worse. If you stay at the speed limit and keep to the right on multi-lane highways and freeways – while keeping a 3 to 4 second following distance – most tailgaters will go around you, and you’ll decrease the likelihood of getting hit from behind. Driving in this manner (aka defensive driving : ) ) also minimizes the likelihood that you will hit someone from behind.

          • One of my favorite experiments is to get in a middle land of a three-lane highway. Pick a speed, any speed. If you want to participate, go, say 10 miles over the speed limit. The car behind you will follow you at about the same distance.Slow down a bit, so will they.Speed up a bit, so will they say. But they’ll stay behind you.

            Regardless of the speed, watch what happens the minute you move to the right-hand lane.

          • Rob

            Sounds like you’re advocating an experiment that involves being a scofflaw. : )

          • X.A. Smith

            For science!

          • jon

            The severity of the collision is going to be defined by the Delta-V between the things colliding…

            That is to say, a tailgater who is doing 2 mph more than you and collides with you will do have the same amount of damage as them hitting you at 2 mph while you are parked.

            There is some additional danger from successive collisions (i.e. they hit you at 62 mph while you are doing 60 mph, but you both lose control and slam into a barrier doing 50 mph) but between two otherwise fixed objects (no change in mass, density, etc) Delta-V is the most dynamic factor on the roads.

            That being said, if you are doing 45, and traffic is coming up from behind you at 80 (like on 35E south of st. paul.) then the odds of a severe accident are higher than if you are doing 75 mph, the same collision (impact at 35 mph vs 5mph) is substantially less sever.

            All things created equal keeping to a slightly faster or slower speed than surrounding traffic is best… keeping the same speed decreases visibility, opens you up for sitting in someone’s blind spot. (I worry about this more on the motorcycle than in the car… on the bike I try to stay 2-3 mph faster than traffic, or 5-8 mph slower than traffic, really whichever option gets me into a break in traffic sooner.)

          • king harvest

            I think of traffic (non rush hours) as a wave. I try to stay in the troughs.
            The closer the person behind me is, the longer my following distance is.

          • jon

            Agreed, stay between the wolf packs.

            Cars cluster together like a herd of animals… happens for a multitude of reasons, slower traffic creating a bottleneck, faster traffic wanting to travel as a group to avoid speeding tickets, some people just setting their speed in order to remain in the blind spot of cars next to them…

            If you can stay out of the herd there is that much less to run into.

          • Rob

            I ride too, and my take on blind spots is that you won’t be in someone’s blind spot if you choose to consciously stay out of their blind spot. The best ways to stay visible – as motorcycle safety instructors will attest – don’t have much to do with riding at a different speed than surrounding traffic. Not darting in and out of traffic, not tailgating, and managing your space cushion so that you are always visible to drivers in front of and behind you – as well as to drivers in adjacent lanes – are the best visibility enhancers.

          • lobd

            I think fear– fear of being hit by someone for not staying at the speed of freeway traffic. Fear of being the righteous vigilante. Fear of making the wrong person mad and getting shot. Sometimes I’m just clueless and then slow down. I try very hard not to speed off the highway. I try very hard to stay with the flow when I’m on it. I wonder why others do it?

    • My guess is 99% of the people speeding through work zones aren’t working two jobs and only operating on two hours sleep.

      • Lobd

        Maybe six hours and 93%? Anyhow, just reminding people to watch the stick in their own eyes. Speeding is a multifaceted problem. Congestion affects the poor and working classes differently than the upper middle class. We all need to slow down and we all need to be sympathetic to ALL people who are affected by bad traffic. Be kinder to someone who was late because of the work zones. Don’t punish people who follow the rules and slow down. Quit tailgating. Stuff like that.

  • Postal Customer

    What I think is interesting is that people won’t slow down from 55 to 45, but they WILL drive 55. In other words, they’re fine with breaking one law, but not the other.

    Side note, I see very few people driving 70 in a 60 during rush hour. Almost nobody. Minnesotans, after all, are perfectly happy to poke along at 5 under (except in a work zone, of course).

  • jwest8

    Interesting thread. Rampant speeding on all roads is an issue. In my neighborhood, it is totally common for drivers to blast down residential streets in excess of 45 mph. How no kids have been killed yet is a complete miracle.

    • D.Robot

      Same for me, on a street posted 25, with two schools along the roughly one mile stretch of road. People stopped for speeding even yell at the officer who pulls them over in the morning.

  • D.Robot

    I think everyone here is missing one crucial fact here: driving fast is perceived as cool, young, manly, etc…. While driving at or even below posted limits, not accelerating when the light ahead turns red, etc are “uncool”, or the ways of old people.