Minneapolis Needs Better Street Design, but Minnesota Needs Better Enforcement

A few weeks ago Our Streets Minneapolis published a statement of their position on the Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan, drawing attention for their view that they did not support greater enforcement of traffic laws. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s 2020 proposed budget includes funding for a reconstituted traffic enforcement unit with three additional officers, a move that puts the mayor on the side of some more enforcement.

The tension around how we reach the shared goal of fewer deaths on our roads is important. Other developed countries have shown that enforcement along with better street design is an important part of improved road safety. But institutional and legal constraints make it unlikely that we can apply these approaches in Minneapolis right now.

How to Get to Safety

Widespread enforcement of road safety legislation is an important, but certainly not the only, reason why other high-income countries kill fewer people on the roads than the US. The World Health Organisation, for example, says that “enacting and enforcing legislation on key risk factors including speed, drink driving … are critical components of an integrated strategy” to reduce fatalities.[i] Effective enforcement in line with practices abroad would probably result in a 20-40% decline in traffic fatalities in Minnesota, saving 70-150 lives each year.

A decent way to measure the safety of roads and streets is to compare the road death rate per 100,000 people every year. In the United States we have a rate of 11.4/100,000 people. In Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain, the rate is just 2.5-3 deaths per 100,000. France, which 25 years ago had the same rate as the US (15/100,000) now has a rate of just over 5, similar to Canada and Australia, who last had rates comparable to the US in the early 1980s. A perhaps little known fact is that Minnesota does OK, with the 8th lowest rate in the country: 8.8/100,000. But 8th lowest in the US is worse than every other OECD country except Turkey. Road fatalities alone account for ⅙ of the difference between US men’s life expectancy and similarly-well off countries in Europe and Japan.[ii]

Figure 1: US road safety has lagged other developed countries for several decades

US road death rates have gradually diverged from those in other high-income countries in the last 40 years.

How have other countries achieved larger and faster reductions in fatalities? Driving less is definitely part of it. Street design—narrower streets, safe bike lanes—is another. Freeways, despite their other faults, can be a safe design, compared to the alternative of undivided highways.

Enforcement has been a third component, including in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, rightly looked to for safer street design.[iii] An important precondition for effective enforcement of traffic laws is to think of bad driving as a public health problem like smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, or poor nutrition: widespread and partly the result of common human temptations and behavior. Of course, these are imperfect analogies when taken too far. More enforcement can be an effective way to reset the driving behavior of millions around speed and driving after drinking alcohol.

Unfortunately in Minneapolis today, constrained by federal and state law, enforcement of traffic laws with our existing institutions and approaches will not be effective. Federal and state law constrain us to an out-dated model of selective enforcement, and treating driver behavior as a relatively rare criminal act which we need individual suspicion to investigate, rather than a widespread, somewhat risky behavior.

What are the interventions that have worked, and why can we not do them here as effectively? Impaired driving and excessive speed are the two main behaviors that other high-income countries focused on reducing since the 1980s when America’s fatality rate began to diverge from its peers.

Fighting impaired driving

A highly effective intervention against impaired driving has been what Australians and New Zealanders call “random breath testing”, the Irish call “mandatory alcohol testing,” and Americans call sobriety checkpoints. Random breath testing is also widely used in Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands among other countries. In Sweden and the Netherlands 40% of drivers report they have been stopped for a random breath test in the past three years, implying a similar level of testing to Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

A "booze bus" in New South Wales

Random breath testing is sometimes done with the support of a “booze bus” that processes more seriously impaired drivers while sober ones go on their way. Flickr photo used under Creative Commons License: https://www.flickr.com/photos/50415738@N04/9603462414/

The impact has been substantial. In Australia and New Zealand, 30-40% of the reduction in road fatalities since the early 1990s has been attributed to the reduced frequency of drunk driving after random breath testing was introduced. Ireland introduced random testing in 2006, and their road fatality rate has dropped from 9/100,000 to 3 in the past 12 years. An international review combining evidence from several European countries, New Zealand, and the Australian states found significant reductions in deaths in all countries that had implemented random breath testing.[iv] The Australasian[v] approach which includes ongoing, widespread and graphic media campaigns aimed at shifting social norms and behavior—”If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot”, “Anyone, anywhere, anytime”—was found to be even more effective.


It is important to be clear on the scale and approach involved. Doing this in Minnesota, on the scale it is done effectively abroad, would mean stopping and breath testing 1.5 – 5 million people every year. Australian guidelines, based on international evidence, suggest an effective annual ratio of stops to licensed drivers is between 1.5 and 0.5. The goal is to deter drunk driving by significantly raising the probability of apprehension, but also by changing social norms about drink driving. Australian researchers found that within several years of introducing widespread random breath testing the fear of being stopped became a socially acceptable reason to not drink, even in social groups that normally encouraged heavy drinking and greater risk taking.[vi] Widespread breath testing also provides, as Australian guidelines suggest, an opportunity for citizens to have a positive encounter with police.[vii] The vast majority who are not impaired are meant to be encouraged and congratulated (and in my experience, admittedly as a white man, having been stopped twice in Australia and at least half a dozen times in New Zealand, this happens).

Millions of police stops every year! No doubt many of you see a massive overreach of government, a recipe for police abuse, and a poor targeting of resources. And indeed these concerns were all raised abroad. But with appropriate guidelines, and civilian oversight these concerns have been overcome. Random breath testing has been found compatible with constitutional bars to unreasonable searches and the right to privacy in other countries’ constitutions.[viii] That being said, stops for random breath testing should not be allowed to expand into more general searches of a vehicle, and the location of large-scale checkpoints should be planned and reviewed by civilian authorities in conjunction with police. Finally, the media should be allowed and encouraged to document and report on the operations of checkpoints without compromising surprises about their location. Anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Is random breath testing worth it when weighing money spent and lives saved?

Yes, very much so. Australian documents from Victoria (like Minnesota dominated by a large metropolitan area, but with a substantial “out-state” population) suggest the average cost of a random breath test is $15-20. Applying these estimates to Minnesota would imply a cost of $20-100 million per year. Even a 20% reduction—at the lower end of estimated effects—in annual road deaths from a random breath testing program in Minnesota would save 70-80 lives annually. If we value a human life at $5-10 million a year, around the amount that behavior and surveys suggest is the collective average, paying about a million dollars to save a life is a bargain.

Effective Speed Reduction Technology

The other major behavior successfully addressed with mass enforcement is speed, particularly on rural roads, freeways, and “stroads” with a high design speed. Speed cameras have been particularly important in Britain where suspicion-less random breath testing is not yet used. Speed compliance in Britain is significantly better than even in Sweden and the Netherlands.[ix] In France, the introduction of the “Automated Speed Enforcement Program” in 2003, with 2,800 cameras operational by 2010, contributed to the rapid decline in French road fatalities from American levels to the OECD average. Sweden and the Netherlands both operate more than 1000 speed cameras around the country.

Different places have taken different approaches to the use of speed cameras, but as with random breath testing the idea is extensive and ongoing camera use. Sweden has deployed large numbers of fixed cameras, and a smaller number of mobile cameras and generally publicizes their deployment. The use of speed cameras is focused on areas where the design speed of the road exceeds a safe speed, and a greater number of these are in rural areas. In Australia, the state of Victoria has relied more on mobile cameras and not disclosing where they are being used. Britain has used a mix of these strategies.

Do speed cameras save lives?

Yes. The evidence about speed cameras is more often about the effectiveness of particular locations where reductions of 10-50% in fatalities can be seen.[x] Their more general effects on overall fatality rates are less often studied. But the evidence over time from France and Britain—which have relied much more heavily on speed cameras than alcohol testing—also points to significant reductions in lives lost.

Driver going 36mph by cyclist

Driver going significantly over the speed limit in Saint Paul.

De-criminalizing traffic offenses 

To this point I’ve used the language of enforcement which is where our debate started. But we can mean different things by “enforcement”, and learn from abroad. If we want to deter risky behaviors, remind people of the consequences of bad behaviors, and promote better driving, we need to remove many traffic offenses from a criminal framework. If we also track people’s behavior over time, we can then apply criminal sanctions only to the relatively small number of people who persistently behave dangerously.

Forgive the parochialism, but we could learn a lesson from New Zealand and keep many driving violations off criminal records. Keeping minor violations off criminal records reduces the social consequences for matters such as housing and employment. What is the point at which we say behavior is so serious it should be immediately treated as a criminal matter?

An effective approach is to treat one very serious violation (e.g. an injury accident at high speed, or being significantly over the speed or alcohol limit) or multiple minor violations as grounds for criminal charges and automatic license suspension. To do this, we should follow the practice of many European countries and Australasia, and introduce a “penalty points” or “demerit” system that tracks driver behavior over several years.

The details vary across countries, but the approach is similar. More serious offenses incur more points. Because the chance of killing or injuring someone is non-linear—much higher at 40mph than 30mph, and vastly higher again at 50mph—the penalties are higher the faster you go, or the more you drink. In New Zealand, for example, going 20 mph over the speed limit penalizes drivers 5 times as many points as going 6 mph over the limit. Penalty points systems help drivers make safer choices by making the consequences of additional risky behavior automatic. They complement higher levels of enforcement by making the consequences clear and predictable. In Spain and Italy the introduction of penalty points systems was associated with a 20-30% reduction in overall traffic fatalities.

Reducing discretion

In both the identification (breath testing and speed cameras) and the sanctioning of traffic safety offenses, an important principle abroad has been to reduce the amount of discretion afforded to police officers and judges. By raising the chance of apprehension now  (you’re caught speeding) and in the future (you do it again, you’ll be caught), and making clear what will happen (you will lose your license), we have a better chance of getting drivers to take fewer risks with their own and others’ lives.

Why can’t we do effective enforcement?

Ironically these matters are controlled, for now, by legal decisions made before 30 years of international evidence have shown how well-designed enforcement is effective at saving life and limb, and can be done in a reasonable way. Four things stand between Minnesota and effective, safe enforcement of traffic laws to improve driver behavior

  1. Truly random breath testing has been made ineffectual by the United States Supreme Court which in a 1990 decision required that the times and locations of sobriety checkpoints be publicized. In Minnesota, a 1994 state Supreme Court decision rendered even these less-effective approaches unconstitutional and banned random breath testing as inconsistent with the Minnesota constitutional provision against unreasonable searches. Notably, when this decision was made some justices dissented, arguing that a random breath testing program was reasonable. Nevertheless, until a public agency decides to try and overturn this decision, we cannot do random breath testing in Minnesota.
  2. Camera-based enforcement, whether speed or red-light faces fewer legal barriers. The Minnesota Supreme Court decided in 2007 that Minneapolis couldn’t unilaterally enact a red-light camera law, ruling legislation had to be consistent throughout the state. The Court in fact declined to comment on the due process implications of camera enforcement.[xi] Nevertheless due process concerns are raised about camera-based enforcement. Perhaps as a consequence, in a trial this summer, the State Patrol and MNDoT have been using red-light cameras in conjunction with officers stopping vehicles and issuing a citation.Requiring a police stop significantly increases the costs and risks of camera-based enforcement, and makes it difficult to change behavior on a wide scale.The lesson from Britain, Sweden, France, and Victoria is that widespread camera deployment, whether covert or overt can eventually reduce driving speeds everywhere. A ticket in the mail, a fine, and treating camera-documented violations with non-criminal sanctions can still achieve significant behavioral change. If the owner who receives the ticket for a camera-documented infringement is not the driver, they probably know the driver. The uncomfortable conversation when the ticket arrives — why were you speeding? why didn’t you stop for the red light? —  will often get us the same result as when the vehicle owner gets a ticket for their own driving. The goal of traffic safety enforcement is not citations, it’s changing driver behavior now (I might be ticketed) and in the future (I learned a lesson).
  3. We also have a problem with a dispersion of authority over traffic safety not present abroad. Who is responsible for reducing road fatalities in Minnesota? Everyone and no-one. As James Densley and Jon Olson noted 3 years ago Minnesota has 441 police departments. In Britain with a population 13 times greater there are 48 agencies. While the structure of policing in Europe and Australasia varies, there are many fewer agencies involved. In Scandinavia, New Zealand, and the Australian states—societies with a similarly sized (2-9 million) and distributed population—road safety enforcement is generally the responsibility of one policy and strategy making organization, and a couple of enforcement and operational agencies.In Victoria, for example, the Transport Accident Commission sets strategy and provides policy advice. Another agency (VicRoads) does driver licensing and tracks “demerit” points. A single statewide police department does the labor-intensive work of stopping and testing drivers, and operating speed cameras (they also do nearly all other policing). Risky driving is a problem throughout Minnesota, but we do not have institutions that allow us to address the issue in an equitable and efficient way across the state.

    Multiple agencies enforce traffic laws in Minnesota

    The Towards Zero Deaths initiative in Minnesota requires co-ordination between many different agencies (http://www.minnesotatzd.org/)

  4. Finally, trust in the police in the United States is significantly lower than in Australasia and Europe. Even before 2014 when public attention on police shootings became widespread, a third of Americans had little or no trust in police. In most European countries and Australasia, 10-20% of the population had the same level of police distrust.[xii] Since 2014 there has been a greater division of public opinion on trust in American policing. Self-described conservatives are more confident in the police, while liberals’ confidence has declined. Racial disparities in police shootings are particularly high in our region.[xiii] Thus the widespread public trust in the police required to implement effective road safety enforcement likely doesn’t exist in Minneapolis today.

After removing minor traffic offenses from a criminal framework, any expansion of traffic safety enforcement should be performed by officers who do not carry firearms on their person. In several of the countries mentioned here police do not carry firearms, and in all of them, the police use of firearms is rare.

So while enforcement has been an important part of international progress on traffic safety, there are significant legal, institutional and social barriers to it being done effectively in Minnesota, let alone in Minneapolis by itself. The conversation about better enforcement is one that affects all Minnesotans and that we need to have across the state. Indeed, speed cameras and alcohol testing are likely to save more lives in Greater Minnesota than downtown. We need to change our policing practices and institutions, and we need to know that not being able to safely and effectively change driver behavior costs lives. Enforcement can save a significant number of lives, and we need to find a way to do it in the effective ways it’s been done abroad. But right now, without waiting for police reform and the reversal of Supreme Court decisions, what Minneapolis can do is build better streets.


Sources cited

[i] World Health Organisation, Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018. Available at https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2018/en/

[ii] Fenelon, Andrew, Li-Hui Chen and Susan P. Baker. 2016. “Major Causes of Injury Death and the Life Expectancy Gap between the United States and Other High-Income Countries injury Deaths and Life Expectancy Gap of the United States letters.” JAMA 315(6):609-11. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.15564.

[iii] Luoma, Juha and Michael Sivak. 2014. “Why Is Road Safety in the U.S. Not on Par with Sweden, the U.K., and the Netherlands? Lessons to Be Learned.” European Transport Research Review 6(3):295-302. doi: 10.1007/s12544-014-0131-7.

[iv] Erke, Alena, Charles Goldenbeld and Truls Vaa. 2009. “The Effects of Drink-Driving Checkpoints on Crashes—a Meta-Analysis.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 41(5):914-23. A free version is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Charles_Goldenbeld/publication/26726309_The_effects_of_drink-driving_checkpoints_on_crashes-A_meta-analysis/links/5a0319b2a6fdcc6b7c9c6987/The-effects-of-drink-driving-checkpoints-on-crashes-A-meta-analysis.pdf

[v] Australasia = Australia and New Zealand.

[vi] Homel, Ross. 1988. “Random Breath Testing in Australia: A Complex Deterrent.” Australian Drug and Alcohol Review 7(3):231-41. doi: 10.1080/09595238880000471.

[vii] Kiptoo Terer and Rick Brown, “Effective drink driving prevention and enforcement strategies: Approaches to improving practice”, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2014. Available at https://aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi472

[viii] The US 4th Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”. “ For example Ireland guarantees “No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law”. The NZ Bill of Rights has nearly identical language to the 4th Amendment: “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise”. Netherlands: “Everyone shall have the right to inviolability of his person, without prejudice to restrictions laid down by or pursuant to Act of Parliament.” Sweden: Everyone shall be protected in their relations with the public institutions against any physical violation … Everyone shall likewise be protected against body searches … everyone shall be protected in their relations with the public institutions against significant invasions of their personal privacy”

[ix] Luoma, Juha and Michael Sivak. 2014. “Why Is Road Safety in the U.S. Not on Par with Sweden, the U.K., and the Netherlands? Lessons to Be Learned.” European Transport Research Review 6(3):295-302. doi: 10.1007/s12544-014-0131-7.

[x] Wilson, Cecilia, Charlene Willis, Joan K. Hendrikz, Robyne Le Brocque and Nicholas Bellamy. 2010. “Speed Cameras for the Prevention of Road Traffic Injuries and Deaths.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews (11).

[xi] https://caselaw.findlaw.com/mn-court-of-appeals/1351443.html: “It is, however, important to emphasize that our decision does not determine the general validity or invalidity of photo-enforcement of traffic violations … We, therefore, do not reach Kuhlman’s due process arguments.”

[xii] Calculated from World Values Survey data: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSOnline.jsp

[xiii] Edwards, Frank, Michael H. Esposito and Hedwig Lee. 2018. “Risk of Police-Involved Death by Race/Ethnicity and Place, United States, 2012–2018.” American Journal of Public Health 108(9):1241-48. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2018.304559.

Evan Roberts

About Evan Roberts

Evan Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Population Studies and the History of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches and researches demography, labor and urban issues. He counts it as a successful week if he has run more miles than he has driven. Connect on twitter @evanrobertsnz or now Mastodon @evanrobertsnz@econtwitter.net

34 thoughts on “Minneapolis Needs Better Street Design, but Minnesota Needs Better Enforcement

  1. Monte Castleman

    You’re entitled to your opinions, but I for one am proud to be an American, an America tthat doesn’t eviscerate our constitutional protections just because Europe decided to do things differently in regards to due process and unreasonable searches. (or for that matter any other number of constitutional rights issues). We fought an armed rebellion because we didn’t want to be part of Europe.

    As for unarmed police doing traffic stops, how many people will want to be police officers if they know at any given traffic stop they could be shot dead by a motorist with no opportunity to defend themselves? Saying we can have unarmed police just because Europe does is again ignoring unique aspects of our culture.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      So there should be less overreach by the state when enforcing traffic laws, but also agents of the state should have easy access to lethal force when enforcing traffic laws?

      I don’t follow.

      1. Monte Castleman

        You’re not using lethal force to enforce speeding, you’re using lethal force to protect yourself against potentially lethal violence by criminals, the same right any other citizen in this state has.

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Weirdly, we should be both decriminalizing minor offenses (most speeding, red light running) and criminalizing more serious ones that often are not treated as criminal today, i.e., vehicular violence even when the driver wasn’t under the influence.

    But I don’t like covert cameras. The goal should be to create an environment where drivers know they will be held accountable for their speed and red light compliance and thus do not speed or run red lights. The way to do that is for drivers to know the cameras are there, not to randomly get tickets because they didn’t know it was. In a perfect world, the system would have speed and red light cameras everywhere but not result in any citations.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      It’s important for people to know where cameras are (and be able to learn that information via publicly accessible records), but instead of signs announcing each location on the roads, the better practice is to have signs that announce the presence of cameras generally (“Minneapolis enforces speed by camera. Drive the speed limit.”), but do not reveal their exact locations.

  3. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    Good post.

    I bring up a lot the example of Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia. This is a truly massive road, somewhere in between a highway and an urban boulevard. For much of its route, it runs at-grade through lower income neighborhoods, and it has about twelve lanes of traffic. In the five year period between 2013 and 2017, one hundred and thirty-nine people were killed or seriously injured on the Boulevard. 139 people on a single road, nearly 30 people a year, whose lives were ended or altered forever in a crash. In 2018, 21 people were killed, the most in years.

    There are short and long range plans to make this road safer. The short-term improvements will be complete along the entire road by 2025. The longer-term vision is unfunded and it’s totally uncertain when it might happen.

    But what’s happening this fall is that speed cameras are getting installed. Red light cameras were also recently installed. These cameras are going to make a difference right away. They will help to change the speeding culture on the Boulevard. They should save lives.

    Redesign is absolutely critical, but it is a slow and costly process by nature. Enforcement is costlier in the long-run, but in the short-term, it’s cheaper and can be up and running much faster. It’s hard for me to accept the implicit argument that we should continue to let people die on roads until we can redesign them. Roads like Roosevelt Boulevard can’t wait.

    In addition to this article’s suggestions about decriminalizing some traffic violations, restricting the ability of police to expand their searches on traffic stops, and going unarmed, I’d add one other suggestion for reducing the potential negative community impacts of enforcement.

    If fines are used; direct the money to improvements made in that community. Maybe even help fund future design changes to the road in question. But because the worst roads are often in the poorest areas, there’s a real risk that fines will sap a poor community’s limited wealth. It could be valuable to not use fine revenue for general fund improvements, but to divert it and use it to invest back into the community that is affected by the dangerous road.

  4. Q

    You can say all you want about how these police should follow protocol and not overstep their bounds but giving the police more power will feed into the same corrupt system that is already there.

    This is a huge overstep of police power and if you think that they wont use the opportunity to pressure for illegal searches and discriminatory actions you are extremely naive. Just another white man who is out of touch with the reality of police.

      1. Mark

        Sure, and they ignore due process since the actual offender may not get the ticket, just the owner. Plus when you farm the system out to a for profit entity, like other cities/states have done there are significant concerns with those entities altering the timing of the cameras to pad their profits.

            1. Serafina ScheelSerafina

              As someone who had her driver’s license revoked because her now-ex accumulated dozens of parking tickets while driving her vehicle, I can say this is very much like parking tickets. And very much should be done. Your vehicle, your responsibility.

          1. Monte Castleman

            The lower the level of the offense the less due process protections there are. So there’s fewer for a parking ticket than a red light ticket.

            Chicago gets around this issue by treating photo red light tickets as essentially parking tickets- a lower level offense with a lower fine and no license points. I would not necessarily oppose this implementation in Minnesota if there were protections to avoid what has happened in other agencies were they were deliberately shortening the yellow lights to increase violations and thus revenue.

              1. Rosa

                but we DO want license revocation for people who habitually drive unsafely, which red light running and crosswalk blowing definitely are.

                1. Andrew Evans

                  Well not only revocation but some kind of jail time. There has to be some teeth to the threat or else we will have bad drivers keep getting behind the wheel.

                  Not that we would want checkpoints to catch anyone, I have nothing really against someone (at this point) who is behaving and following the laws. Only those selfish people who put others in danger.

        1. Evan RobertsEvan Roberts Post author

          For most traffic misbehavior thinking about it as a criminal matter is not helpful. If it doesn’t go on your criminal record, and it shouldn’t for smaller non-injury violations, there is no due process issue. The fine is about shifting behavior through predictable consequences and the awareness that speed (or red light) cameras could be operating. It doesn’t matter if that’s indirect (owner has to ask spouse or child why they were doing 40 in a 30 zone), or doesn’t always happen.

  5. Anthony

    Do you drive in Minneapolis where the line of cars waiting to take a left turn is effectively prohibited by an endless stream of walkers, bike riders, and oncoming traffic work zero left-hand turn signals? Everybody who turns left has to wait then Ron the red light. Even the city police do this.

    1. Daughter Number Three

      UPS does so many things wrong when parking in bike lanes that I hate to cite them, but their solution (company wide) to this is to make 3 right turns… it’s faster.

      1. Andrew Evans

        Bikes are unable to go around cars temporally parked in bike lanes? I thought they shared the road with cars? To follow your argument then we should limit bikes to “safe” bike lanes and ban them from streets where a bike lane or path is easily accessible.

  6. Monte Castleman

    To be clear I’m all for more enforcement. Besides keeping a lid on speeding and red light running, just watch an episode of LivePD and you’ll be amazed at the number of stops for not signalling or a burned out tag light turn up one or more of the following: no license, no insurance, warrants, illegally possessed firearms, and narcotics. But it should be done by hiring more police to give motorists due process protections (how do you confront your accuser in court when your accuser is physically mounted to a traffic signal pole).

    I also think traffic citations should be indexed to income or vehicle value. The other night on LivePD they pulled over a bunch of exotic cars for racing down the freeway at 120 mph in a similar incident to the one on I-394 a while ago. One of the motorists said basically “I own a Ferrari, I can afford $100 tickets”

    1. Andrew Evans

      So in Europe on freeways they have a pretty good system. Trucks stay in the right lane and follow a speed posted as a sticker, unless they are passing another slower truck, in which case they still follow their posted speed. If there are 3 lanes, the middle one is for those going the limit and the left is for passing or drivers going over the limit.

      If someone is driving a sports car and wants to go faster, and pay for the gas to do so, there is pretty much no limit and the only enforcement is either tool booths or posted areas with cameras, or speed traps that are reported on the radio (in Slovakia).

      This works well, and the consequences (legally) of getting into an accident seem to be a little harsher than what they are here.

      Sure, some of those drivers are 394 could be pompous Richards, but why not let them drive faster if the car is capable of it and especially if they have any high speed training or track time? Even my old lowly 911, and over 100k miles now, could still run up to Duluth safely averaging 120 on the freeway, why should I be held to the same limit as trucks and average cars?

      The ones to catch are those driving without a valid license and without insurance, or those who are being reckless. Sure some supercar drivers can afford $100 tickets, but they can’t afford balling up that car on the side of the road or an accident.

      1. Pete Barrett

        Dude, if you crash into my vehicle at 120 mph, there is a much greater chance that my wife will be a widow than if you crash into me at 60 or 70.

        Know, I know you’re an above average driver. We all are. Just ask any of us, we all think we’re above average drivers.

        But, just as good swimmers drown, above average drivers crash too.

        That is why we should not allow drivers to travel at 120 mph. It’s extremely selfish.

        1. Andrew Evans

          Dude… OMG

          If I’m going 120, and your wife is going the speed limit at 70, that’s a 50mph difference and would be the same as approaching an obstacle at a (for example) 45mph street. More realistically in traffic, as my experience going to St. Cloud and back on Monday reminded me, 100 may be the most a person could average, and even then there are plenty of times drivers don’t know how to pass or move out of the left lane.

          So the OMG DUDE crash is now down to a 30mph reaction time. This is the same speed plenty of safe drivers go on city streets and have plenty of time to identify and stop for issues that come up.

  7. Andrew Evans

    I’m not sure cameras are the answer here. We have different laws and although I’m not an expert, but they have been tried.

    That said, when driving around France and now Slovakia, drivers really do slow down and heed the speed limit when cameras are around and signed. The speeding ticket I got in France was something like $30, and automatically charged to the rental car company. Generally, from talking to others from Europe, those types of fines are usually smaller and don’t really do much other than be a nuisance.

    The flip side of that is there really aren’t speed limits on the freeways, and 90kmh on country roads is optimistic at times for the cars people drive. Also everyone knows the rules and follows them. Trucks have posted speed limit stickers, and they follow them. Trucks also must stay to the right most lane unless passing, and in 3 lane roads they are not to use the left most lane. Cars going the limit stay in the middle lane, and those who want to go faster use the left one. Speed limits are usually 130kph, although if you can afford a sports car, and the gas to go with it, it seems there is no speed limit in the left lane.

    Pedestrians seem to stick to cross walks (in France and Slovakia), and cars stop before the crosswalks. Although stop lights are on the other side of the street, so encroaching on the crosswalk would mean not being able to see the signal.

    Pretty sure drivers licenses and insurance is a different process, drunk driving isn’t tolerated at all, and at least in Slovakia the cops are bored and will pull people over, France will just let you crash into one of the many trees off the side of the road or fly off a cliff where the road doesn’t have much in the way of a guardrail.

    Which is a long way of saying it’s not the wild west over there, and residents seem to have a higher regard for what it means to be a pedestrian and driver.

    Coming back here and my first day driving at 7am on a Sat morning in North, someone tailgated me on Lowry, passed going at least 50, did the same to someone else, then went about 50 going south down some residential street before Penn. Coming back from breakfast at Fat Nats (because what else is there to do when you’re jetlagged and woke up at 6am) there was a car parked off the side of Emerson that got in the way of someone trying to pass on the shoulder.

    I really doubt this is drunk driving, it’s selfish driving, and the only way to stop it is to have adequate enforcement of traffic laws. Have a few patrol officers give out tickets in each of our wards all day, and within a short period of time things will start to shape up.

    1. Rosa

      I don’t see why we can’t have old-fashioned cop-on-hand speed traps, since we can’t have camera ticketing. With good oversight and design they wouldn’t have the racist officer discretion problem enforcement of things like taillight laws have- choosing the locations carefully and then overseeing how the police are behaving would go a long way.

      I’ve lived in Minneapolis 20 years and seen parked-officer ticketing for things that slow traffic, light turning left off Lake during prohibited hours, but NEVER for safety issues like stopping and looking before turning on red or stopping before instead of in crosswalks. And of course when they run “stop for pedestrian” stings they only issue warnings.

      1. Andrew Evans

        I’m personally not sure why traffic cameras couldn’t turn into an insurance or vehicle license thing. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I have some responsibility as the vehicle owner if someone else is driving. If I continually lend out my vehicle to someone who is speeding or running lights, then there should be some kind of consequence to getting the tabs updated or for insurance rates.

        I know the flip side of that is then more vehicles may be uninsured or not have current tabs. Then too, the punishment for no insurance or tabs would need to be increased.

        Although I do feel it wouldn’t take that large of a traffic force to make a change. I’d be willing to bet that one squad could really turn things around if it was dedicated to traffic. There are only so many major roads, and bridges, and eventually the fear of authority will be put into drivers again.

  8. Carlton

    Can someone explain to me why Our Streets and others say from their economically advantaged and white privileged perspectives that POC don’t want increased enforcement? This isn’t what they say at community stakeholder meetings.

    We know from the literature that increased police presence deters crime, specifically in Minneapolis as one study reports.

    Maybe the community activists need more attention to resident concerns rather than their inner political compasses, which seem to be based on disingenuous virtuosity rather than pragmatic people solving.


    1. Rosa

      I don’t know where Our Streets got their input, but there are definitely different opinions even among the people going to community meetings.

      But overall I think it’s an expression of defeat – nobody wants more police shootings or daily harassment and we can’t see any way to have more police involvement without them. Just like there are mostly not calls for enforcement or social shaming, just a “recognition” that drivers will kill people unless stopped by concrete barriers.

      1. Andrew Evans

        Yeah, I’m not sure what the split is, but there are varied voices about this issue. I do feel thought that the tide is turning away from racism and BLM and more to safety and pedestrian/biker rights. Intersectionality is falling apart, and will force (at least vocal supporters) to pick a side. Currently it seems like the mayor punted, and the ball may have to be picked up again in a few years, but I think safety is going to eventually win out, at least as traffic is concerned.

        It also seems, as a casual viewer, that the political winds have moved away from BLM, and even (unrelated) MeToo. Body camera footage has helped, and it seems that MPD has made some progress with community relations, or at least won’t internally tolerate the junk that it once did. So aside from a large racial issue popping up, I feel that safety and traffic are going to take more of a front seat than what we’ve seen over the past few years.

        Although that said, with the split we had that got the younger Ellison family member elected, I’m not sure politically safer streets are going to be the deciding issue.

        For what it’s worth the other day or night someone on a moped or scooter was severely injured by a hit and run in North, left clinging to life and bloody on the pavement There is a video on facebook, and should be required viewing for those who bike in the city. To me it’s a reminder why I don’t bike (pedal or motorcycle) anymore and why I shy away from advising my partner to buy a Ruckus. I do accept that no where is safe, but I’d rather not put myself at risk with city biking if I don’t have to, with the way our streets are.

  9. Nathanael

    Cops need to stop carrying guns routinely. Britain has “armed response teams” who are called in if they’re dealing with a specific, known-to-be-armed suspect, but otherwise their cops don’t carry guns. It makes the cops much less likely to murder people.

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