State police target 90-100 MPH speeders

State Police Col. Matthew Birmingham at last week’s press conference

By Guy Page

Vermont state police are less likely than they once were to stop freeway speeders, unless they’re traveling at almost 90 MPH or engaging in other dangerous activity, the senior uniformed state police officer said last week. Last week, he and Gov. Phil Scott explained why: more crime, faster cars, and fewer cops. 

“When you have speeds that are 90 to 100 miles per hour routinely we are going to target those vehicles that are driving before we are targeting 78 or 80 miles per hour,” State Police Commander Col. Matthew Birmingham said at last week’s press conference. 

Reported speeding stops this weekend illustrate the new reality. State police reported two drivers stopped – both men from out-of-state – for speeding on the Interstate. Both were driving over 100 MPH on I-91.

Nagachaitanya Kasarla, 32, of Hartford, CT was clocked driving a Dodge Charter at 108 mph in a 65 mph zone,  around 1:26 p.m. Sunday. Charles Putnam, 48 of Canaan, NH was pulled over for driving 101 MPH. Both must appear in court to face negligent driving charges, as well as pay a hefty speeding ticket. 

As readers of the Chronicle’s Monday roundup of weekend police reports know, getting stopped for driving more than 100 MPH on Vermont highways occurs fairly often. In fact, few freeway speed-related traffic stops happen for under 90 MPH, at least as reported in police press releases. 

The press has noticed. At a press conference last week, Reporter James Dwinell asked Gov. Scott why the actual pullover speeding limit seems to have increased. 

“This is about resources, we can’t pull every single speeder over and use resources that should be going to other areas and investigate deaths and other horrific things that are happening in Vermont,” Scott replied. 

When Dwinell noted that “10 years ago I could go by a state trooper at 78 and get pulled over,” Scott answered, “10 years ago we didn’t have the level of crime we have now.”

Then, as he often does, Scott asked his administration expert to provide more information. Up to the microphone stepped Birmingham. 

The speed limit is 65 MPH and “there is no magic speed you get to go before you are stopped,” Birmingham said. But staffing shortages have forced state police to prioritize traffic stops, he conceded. 

“Given the fact that we have a 15 percent vacancy rate right now, we have 51 sworn positions that are not filled, we have had to reallocate resources, uniform resources to investigate homicides, and there just are not enough out there to enforce the speed all the time,” Birmingham said. 

“Because of our limited resources, we are targeting the most dangerous and aggressive drivers on the road,” Birmingham said. “We are targeting people weaving in and out of traffic, that are operating dangerously, using their cellphones while they are driving faster, that are impaired. When you have speeds that are 90 to 100 miles per hour routinely we are going to target those vehicles that are driving before we are targeting 78 or 80 miles per hour, becuase they are putting other people’s lives at risk on the interstate.”

Both Birmingham and Scott noted that cars are faster and roads are built for faster cars. “You are seeing higher speeds across the country. This is a national problem,” the state’s top uniformed cop said. 

Categories: Crime

19 replies »

  1. I’m a lot more concerned about the fact that so many drivers are texting and playing with their cell phone than I am about someone driving 78. The statistics have been clear for years. The biggest danger on our highways is not speeding, it’s driver inattention. That said, it’s good VSP is stopping the crazies driving 100 mph.

  2. Is this a setup story, VDC? I’m still not going to exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph. The VSP may not focus on the 80 mph folks, but the local yokels surely will. Ticket fees are just too lucrative for them to ignore.

  3. I am concerned about the texting, the distractions, and the speeders. Somebody doing even 10 mph faster is at increased risk for involvement in a fatal accident, as is the texting or distracted driver.

    But the flagrant and deliberate violators need the tickets and fines and suspensions.

  4. “This is about resources, we can’t pull every single speeder over and use resources that should be going to other areas and investigate deaths and other horrific things that are happening in Vermont,” Scott replied.

  5. Perhaps if Vermont didn’t have such liberal catch and release attorney generals we wouldn’t have the crime rate we now do.

    • It usually stops at night, with a front bumper wrapped around an old tree by the side of the road, illuminated by a bunch of flashing red, white and blue lights reflecting off a road covered with broken glass…

  6. A 2021 study confirmed that from 2015 to 2019, police in Vermont stopped motorists at nearly three times the national average …. That amounts to 255 drivers stopped per 1,000 residents, compared to 86 drivers per 1,000 residents nationally. The problem appears to be getting worse over time.

    For example, stops by Vermont sheriff’s departments increased by 86 percent from 2015 to 2019, while stops by Vermont State Police increased nearly 50 percent.

    The researchers also found that Black and Brown drivers are stopped, searched, and arrested in Vermont at higher rates than their white counterparts. They also confirmed that Black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be pulled over for “equipment” violations such as broken taillights or an obscured license plate—things that do not affect the safety of other motorists, which are called “non-public safety stops.”

    Oki-dokie, so then issuing Nagachaitanya Kasarla a speeding ticket would have to be considered racist …. regardless of driving 108 MPH.

  7. Where will it stop? Usually at night, with a front bumper wrapped around a old tree, the scene illuminated by a bunch of flashing red, white, and blue lights reflecting off a road covered with broken glass, with a shattered cell phone still clutched in the hand of a sheet covered driver…

  8. Our town PD is fully staffed and they have the blessing of our residents to stick it to the speeders both Vermonters and out of staters, who ignore our reasonably set speed limits through town. We want our streets safer and quieter. The fine money returned to the town is a nice benefit.

    • Lee, I hope when visiting my town, you miss the poorly placed, reduced speed sign while maintaining flow of traffic. Then, singled out by the revenue driven, sheriff’s dept. We love hosing visitors that don’t belong here.

  9. As a responsible, performance, auto enthusiast I’m pleased to learn VSP finally “gets it.” Well recall the ill will generated when VSP assigned quotas to generate revenue, ticketing anything over 55 MPH.

    Sadly, it took an opiate epidemic with rampant drug murders to teach VSP where its finite assets are best utilized. Now, recognizing impairment, texting, inattention and loitering in the PASSING lane as the greatest, proven elements to highway safety. That speeding alone on an a dry, empty interstate rarely puts anyone at risk.

  10. What does the data show us? Are we having a lot more accidents on the interstate highways with cars allowed to drive up to 78 mph? I don’t see a big problem with it as long as the conditions like weather and amount of traffic are good. It’s fine with me if the police concentrate on the people who weave, go super fast and create dangerous conditions for the rest of us.

  11. The fact of the matter is the number of vacancies (51 positions unfilled?) and reallocating resources due to being understaffed. Why is it that no one is willing to join the VSP or other local police forces? Could it be the micro-mangement woke law enforcement task force? The shenanigans going on in the back offices? The criminals know it’s open season in Vermont for drug running, human trafficking, and general lawlessness all across the State. The Nascar wannabes is just part and parcel of the failing State of the State.

  12. I took a forensics class once that a VSP trooper taught in 2008. He said “as long as you’re going 82 you’re fine”. I never forgot it and haven’t been pulled over since.

    • As someone who’s younger self had a long history of tickets in the state of Vermont, I’ve asked numerous officers and they don’t pull you over until you’re going 80mph or weaving and endangering others.

  13. The interstate system was built to handle speeds that cars of the day probably weren’t able to handle. Today’s cars are typically quicker, better handling…steering and stopping. The larger highway safety issues today are people who are not engaged in the process (manual shift might help in part), people who don’t know how (or have forgotten) how to drive in the snow, people who believe “all season tires” have any use in VT after November and before May, and inattention in its many forms (which many of us must admit being guilty of at one time or another).