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Minneapolis looking at cameras to catch speeders, red-light runners

Speeding is a problem in Minneapolis ― worse here than in many other parts of the country, contended Ethan Fawley, who coordinates the city’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries within the next three years.

Fawley pointed to data showing that in Minneapolis between 2017 and 2021, speeding was the leading cause of crashes resulting in a serious injury or death. Drivers running red lights was not far behind.

That’s why the city is asking the Legislature to make a change in state law to allow municipalities to use cameras to record the traffic infractions and mail a citation to the owner of the vehicle.

This would be Minneapolis’ second try at using cameras to nab drivers running red lights. The city rolled out a system known as PhotoCop in 2005, but it didn’t last long. The state Supreme Court ruled the program unconstitutional because it conflicted with state law and forced vehicle owners who were cited to prove they were not the ones driving.

Still, Fawley argued during an online open house in January, “People deserve to be safe getting around to the community. Findings are consistent that it provides benefits for reducing deaths, injuries, crashes and speeds.”

The push for the pilot began in 2021 but is taking on a bit more urgency as more than 20 people have died in traffic crashes in each of the past three years. In 2018, the city had just nine traffic fatalities.

Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura, D-Minneapolis, plans to introduce a bill that would permit cameras at high-crash intersections. According to the bill, cameras would snap pictures of the back license plates of vehicles going 10 mph over the speed limit and generate a ticket. Citations come with a warning on the first offense and a $40 fine for a second. The vehicle owner could opt to take a traffic safety class in lieu of paying the fine one time.

“Every few blocks, you will see a some kind of memorial to a person who had died on that street,” Sencer-Mura said. “This does support safety on the street.”

Another provision in Sencer-Mura’s bill would require cities to use the cameras as part of a broader traffic safety plan. Minneapolis previously identified the camera pilot in a draft of its Vision Zero Action Plan as one of 17 strategies and 70 actions to reduce traffic deaths and injuries by 2027. The earliest a pilot program could be put in place would be summer 2025, if the Legislature were to amend the law this year.

Cameras, Fawley said, are “an important part of the overall mix we are pursuing for traffic safety.”

Next year, the city plans to use a $20 million federal Safe Streets for All grant to begin upgrading traffic lights and installing features such as bikeways separated from vehicles, center median refuge islands and reducing the number of travel lanes on some roads.

Despite the fate of PhotoCop, Fawley thinks the city can be successful this time.

“We have a lot we can learn from other states and communities that have done this,” he said. “We have a lot of information to build on. This time we will work to support legislative change to ensure it is legal.”

At least 19 states and the District of Columbia use cameras for some sort of automated traffic enforcement, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Minneapolis’ pilot would begin with about 10 cameras and focus on speeding but could be expanded in the future to include red-light runners.

Vehicle owners who are ticketed would not have the offense included on their driving record, and the tickets could not be used to revoke a driver’s license or used by police to make an arrest.

The bottom line, Fawley said: “We want people to slow down. We don’t want them to get a ticket.”

This article was originally published by a www.startribune.com . Read the Original article here. .

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