Casper, Wyo. • The Wyoming Highway Patrol hands out nearly twice as many speeding tickets to out-of-state drivers as it does to in-state motorists, but the administrator of the patrol says the agency doesn’t target drivers from outside Wyoming.
An analysis by the Casper Star-Tribune shows that the Wyoming Highway Patrol handed out just over 21,000 speeding tickets to state residents in 2012 while writing nearly 40,000 to drivers from elsewhere in the country.
In 2011, the patrol issued 22,000 speeding tickets to Wyoming drivers while motorists with out-of-state plates received 39,644 speeding tickets, according to the state data.
Col. John Butler, administrator of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, said the agency doesn’t target out-of-state drivers. "We don’t base our enforcement action on what [the] plate [is] and where the people are from," he said.
Wyoming’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry and the interstate highways that cross the state draw thousands of out-of-state drivers. Butler said tourists who get nabbed for speeding sometimes complain and vow never to return to the state.
"It’s an unfair comment," Butler said. "We have a job to do."
But drivers’ advocates are leery of law enforcement’s supposed blind eye to license plates.
"Any time you’re driving outside of your home state, you need to be careful for aggressive law enforcement," said John Bowman, spokesman for the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association. "It doesn’t surprise me that Wyoming issues more tickets to out-of-state than in-state drivers. It comes down to practicality."
Bowman said drivers traveling outside their home state are easy pickings for law enforcement because they are less likely to contest a speeding ticket in court.
"If I am a Wisconsin driver and get ticketed in Wyoming, most likely I won’t be traveling back to the state for a court appearance to contest the ticket," Bowman said.
The states that tallied the most tickets in Wyoming were Colorado, Utah, California, Montana, Idaho and Texas.
Even though Colorado earned the most out-of-state tickets, Butler said Utah drivers tend to be even wilder on the road.
"They tend to think it’s OK to drive five or 10 miles an hour over the limit," Butler said of Utah drivers. "I don’t know what it is with them."
Butler’s advice for those who like to hightail it on the open road is simple: Follow the law.
Butler said he and his colleagues have heard a litany of excuses in their combined years on the job. So many, he said, the patrol "should write a book." He said he doesn’t recommend the hospital excuse. If someone says he or she is in a hurry to make it there, the patrol calls medical officials to verify.
The bathroom excuse doesn’t work, either, he said. And he added: "I’ve seen people get out of their car and go after we pull them over."
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