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DPS Report: Seatbelt Tickets Way Up, Drug Dogs Working Hard…

…and Creative Graphing Downplays Sioux Falls Driver Exam Wait Times!

The Government Operations and Audit Committee will also hear from the Department of Public Safety Tuesday “to discus performance management indicators.” (That’s bureau-speak for, “How’re ya doin’?”) The DPS performance indicators have all sorts of fun stats.

For instance, since the December 2016 directive to write citations for every seatbelt violation observed, the Highway Patrol has recorded a big jump in “seatbelt contacts.” From 2014 through 2016, seatbelt contacts averaged about 7,900 a year. In 2017, the Highway Patrol issued close to 10,300 seatbelt tickets. In the first half of this year, HOP issued 7,870 tickets and four warnings. They’ve beaten last year’s monthlies each month so far and thus are on pace to issue over 15,000 such tickets.

In FY2016, the HP averaged about $22 per seatbelt citation. At that rate, 15,000 tickets could reap $330,000

For real: DPS includes this photo of "Jim Reaper" and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels in its report to GOAC, July 2018.
For real: DPS includes this photo of “Jim Reaper” and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels in its report to GOAC, July 2018.

Drug dogs are working hard for the Highway Patrol: so far this year, trooper dogs have participated in 540 drug arrests involving 30 pounds of meth, 967 pounds of marijuana, 3.6 pounds of BHO/WAX, a quarter pound of THC edibles, 91 grams of cocaine, 44 grams of psilocybin mush, 19 doses of pills, four seized guns, $52K in seized cash, and $78K in seized property. The dogs have not found any heroin or fentanyl yet this year.

The human troopers put over five million miles on their cars in each of the fiscal years from FY2014 through FY2017.

The Department of Public Safety also issued over 200,000 driver licenses and IDs in each of the last six years except for FY2014, when licenses and IDs dipped below 180,000.

DPS gives us an illustration of how to make bad numbers look better through creative graphing. Check out this graph of wait times at the Sioux Falls Driver Exam Station:

Department of Public Safety, Wait Times for Sioux Falls Driver Exam Station in June 2018, in report to GOAC, July 2018.
Department of Public Safety, Wait Times for Sioux Falls Driver Exam Station in June 2018, in report to GOAC, July 2018.

Average wait times in June were always under 30 minutes. Maximum wait times floated around 30 minutes, with only a couple spikes past one hour but never above 1:15. Yet by choosing to make the y-axis stretch all the way up to three hours, DPS depresses the wait-time curve with lots of impressive white space, making its wait time look far less significant than working folks trying to get their license renewed during lunch break perceive it to be.


  1. mike from iowa 2018-07-23 08:15

    A person convicted of violating the Safety Belts and Safety Harnesses law is guilty of a simple misdemeanor, punishable as a scheduled violation of Iowa Code § 805.8A (14)(c)(1) (2011), which carries a scheduled fine of $50, plus a $17.50 surcharge and $60 in court costs, for a cost of at least $127.50.Jul 1, 2010

    Does the SD Hiway Patrol racially profile (wink wink) certain drivers, say people with less than titanium white hides?

  2. grudgenutz 2018-07-23 11:11

    Clickit or frickit!

  3. Roger Cornelius 2018-07-23 16:08

    A Rapid City Police K-9 unit was attacked by a Pit Bull that broke loose from a fenced yard, the K-9 was attacked while pursuing a subject.
    Rapid City Police shot and killed the Pit Bull and took the K-9 to a vet for treatment. No word on the health of the K-9.

  4. Kelly 2018-07-23 17:14

    The interview on KSFY of Ravnsborg is painful to watch. The guy is breathing so hard and is so nervous it’s horrible. What a mistake it was to chose this guy.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2018-07-23 18:14

    In some news program today Jason Ravnsborg said he wants to build a meth prison in western South Dakota, he didn’t say anything about treatment.

  6. grudznick 2018-07-23 19:26

    It was a tremendous mistake for the GOP delegates, ignorant most but forced into a tough choice. Vote for Mr. Seiler. He’s grudznick’s man. He’s competent, smart, experienced, and not an utter incompetent like Mr. Ravnsborg.

  7. Adam 2018-07-24 00:44

    If highway patrol personnel spend too much downtime on the job, then we need fewer of them. We shouldn’t be cool with giving them increased authority to hassle us on the road, and make us late, when we’re not even speeding and following all traffic laws, over a damn seatbelt (laws which are really only designed to increase police revenue by treating everyone like a potential drug trafficker and thereby reducing bloated law enforcement downtime).

    If there isn’t enough important work to do, then we need less cops. I am displeased by the fact that my tax dollars are going towards a record number of seatbelt violations.

  8. Debbo 2018-07-25 00:38

    I don’t get the opposition to wearing a seat belt. It’s not hard to snap, or time consuming, or uncomfortable. It’s just something that you do, like putting the car in gear.

    After spending some time driving race cars, I learned that one of the biggest values of a seat belt is keeping the driver behind the wheel.

    If your car goes into a slide — maybe you hit an icy patch or somebody whacked the rear of your car — your body tends to go sliding too. It’s pretty tough to maintain or regain control of your car if you’re no longer within reach of the wheel or pedals.

    Maybe you come over the hill on your gravel road and there is the neighbor’s enormous Simmental bull in the middle of the road. You know he’s probably not going to move because he’s a bull, so you’ve got to find a way around him or hit a ton of muscle and bone. So you swerve hard. Again, your belt keeps you behind the wheel so you have a chance to get out of this with all 4 wheels remaining on the ground, you, your car and the bull unscathed.

    Why not wear the belt? It’s not a big deal. Oh, and there’s another reason I’ve seen on a bumper sticker: “It makes it harder for the aliens to suck your body out of your car.”

  9. Adam 2018-07-28 11:15

    I’m cool with wearing my seatbelt, just not with cops using such a minor infraction as a primary means to a.) reducing civilian freedom b.) padding their juristiction’s revenue in order to c.) pad an officer’s own salary and exagurate their value as a law enforcer.

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