With Highway 10 under construction all summer, I’ve had to get creative with my commutes.

For a few weeks, Highway 10 traffic was detoured right past the Townsquare Media building and to the four-way stop next to Lincoln Depot.

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What an absolute dumpster fire.

I’ve seen more than a dozen cars fail to stop at that intersection. Rather than stopping and waiting for their turn to go, they turn right without stopping and continue on their merry way. To heck with the three other cars lined up.

Where’s a cop when you need one?

Under state law, a driver can turn right while a stoplight is red if the following conditions are met:

  • The driver has come to a complete stop
  • There are no signs posted that ban the turn

 

It is also legal on a one-way street to turn left at a red light onto another one-way street. The same conditions have to be met.

Sure, but the problem is drivers are not stopping before turning right.

Why can’t the city put up cameras at problem intersections and send the driver a ticket when they fail to stop?

Because that’s illegal in Minnesota. Illegal – but not unconstitutional.

In fact, Mayor Dave Kleis wants stop light and speed cameras placed in the city, and the city ran one of the first pilot programs for some new technology in 2019.

Right now, a police officer can issue a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light if they witness the failure. Enforcement is both time-consuming and labor-intensive and is tough to prove in court.

However, a camera that snaps a photo of the driver while running a red light may not always be a safer option. If a driver knows the cameras are in operation, they may slow down and stop at the intersection while the traffic light is still yellow. The driver behind them may assume they’ll beat the light. The camera causes the crash.

The Minnesota Legislature has tried several times to develop pilot programs for traffic and speed cameras in the state. One of the biggest misconceptions is those cameras have been ruled unconstitutional in Minnesota.

In 2007, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against the city of Minneapolis in a speed camera case. The city had been using cameras to track speeders between 2005 and 2007. The camera snaps a photo of the speeding car’s license plate and the car’s owner gets a ticket.

The legal hiccup was everyone in Minnesota is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A vehicle owner was assumed to be guilty of running a red light, regardless of who was driving the car. Remember – the ticket went to the owner, not the driver. The courts filled up with car owners who had to prove they were innocent of driving the car on the day in question.

Speed and stop sign cameras are not unconstitutional in the state, assuming the owner of the car was driving is.

In 2019, St. Cloud ran a pilot program using new technology. A camera would witness a vehicle run a red light (not the driver or the license plate) and send a tone to an officer stationed nearby who would make the traffic stop. The officer could watch the intersection on an internet livestream. The $200,000 technology was met with limited success, due in large part to a number of technical glitches.

I think it’s time to try it again. Speed and stoplight cameras are not unconstitutional in Minnesota, but assuming the vehicle’s owner is driving is. School buses are now outfitted with technology so advanced they can tell the color of a driver’s eyes if they pass a bus with the lights on. Let’s use that technology and try it again.

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