Speed ​​cameras in construction zones in Minnesota? Maybe, but not before 2023

On July 4 weekend, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans hit the road while avoiding construction cones in more than 200 roadwork zones across the state.

If some are successful, Minnesota will install speed cameras in work zones as early as 2024. House lawmakers and traffic safety advocates say the technology is needed after a year in which more people died in crashes speed-related than any year since 2003, according to Minnesota State Patrol data.

The cameras – which critics say raise important legal issues – were part of end-of-term negotiations this spring. Those broader talks fell through, leaving the effort for next year.

“The past two years have been an exercise in what lack of enforcement looks like on the roads,” Paul Aasen of the Minnesota Safety Council, which supports speed cameras, told House lawmakers this spring.

Proposaloriginally sponsored by State Representative Connie Bernardy, DFL-New Brighton, would have freed up $2.5 million for a pilot program in 2024 and 2025 to install speed cameras in work zones on state highways.

According to the bill, the fines would be $50. Cameras could take pictures of license plates but not of a person’s face, and signs would be needed to warn drivers that a camera was ahead.

It follows a study led by a Minnesota Department of Transportation-led task force that found excessive speeds — defined as 15 miles per hour over the speed limit — have increased since 2020. Drivers face a $300 fine for speeding in Minnesota work zones, but enforcement is difficult because there is often no space to park cars, the study found.

Communities in 18 states have speed camera programs, according to the Insurance Institute for Road Safety, an advocacy group. Several other states, including Wisconsin, have state laws that ban the devices.

Minnesota is in the middle, with no state law that specifically allows cameras. The issue is further muddied by a 2007 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that ended Minneapolis’ red-light camera program.

“I don’t object to that. I think it would be a good tool that could be used. What I’m looking for is a legal way to do that,” said Sen. Scott Newman, Republican chairman of the commission. Senate for Transport. , told FOX 9 in an interview. “You can’t just set up a camera, take a picture of a passing car and send a ticket to the owner of the car. It’s just not that simple.”

In 2021, 166 people died in speeding crashes in Minnesota, well above the average of 100 deaths in the previous four years, according to State Patrol Data. Speed-related deaths are occurring less frequently in 2022, with the state having recorded 44 deaths through June 19, the agency said.

Minneapolis had more fatal crashes last year than at any time since 2008, Ethan Fawley, the city’s Vision Zero program coordinator, told lawmakers this spring. Vision Zero is the city’s traffic safety initiative.

“We have a real increase in speed challenges, and that has had disastrous results on our roads,” Fawley said. City officials declined to make Fawley available for an interview.

The camera pilot program was included in the House state government’s omnibus bill this year. The Senate did not include the devices in its version of the bill.

Opponents say speed cameras are a step towards automatic enforcement, which they oppose.

“I don’t want us to be a state like Illinois where there’s a camera every 10 feet,” state Rep. Nolan West, R-Blaine, said during a committee hearing this year. .

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