Speed Cameras Suggested Amid MN's Road Safety Woes
Monday, March 28, 2022
Authorities and lawmakers say Minnesota has a problem with reckless drivers - and it creates deadly consequences for others on the road. Legislation would create speed-camera pilot programs to help keep motorists safe, but the idea has skeptics.
Over the past two years, traffic fatalities have spiked in Minnesota, including nearly 500 last year, with speed cited as a common factor.
St. Paul resident Sarah Risser recently testified in support of the camera bill, pointing to the 2019 death of her teenage son. The vehicle he was in was struck by a speeding truck that crossed the center line.
"We are facing a growing public health crisis of road fatalities," said Risser. "Our roads are getting more dangerous, and our safety policies are not keeping up."
The House bill would allow Minnesota's Transportation and Public Safety departments to team up with communities to develop pilot programs for speed camera use, in work and school zones.
Some lawmakers in the hearing raised privacy concerns, and questioned whether the cameras would unfairly target the car's owner, rather than the driver.
Skeptics also referred to the former red-light camera program in Minneapolis, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court. Bill sponsors say their plan contains language to address those concerns.
And Frank Douma - research scholar at the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota - said his research has shown speed cameras are a reliable deterrent in reducing crashes.
"Automated enforcement speed cameras allow that kind of certainty to exist," said Douma, "much more than needing to deploy peace officers to be able to actually issue tickets."
The plan was laid over in committee in the DFL-led House. There's a companion bill in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Despite the public outcry over fatal crashes, it's unclear whether the idea will gain traction, as lawmakers face other key priorities.
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