New video technology that will be used to nab drivers who blow red lights will go live Saturday in St. Cloud, and if it proves successful, it could spread to other cities across the state.
For the next 90 days, cameras at the intersection of Hwy. 15 and 2nd Street will act as a second set of eyes for law enforcement by capturing video of red-light runners and beaming a livestream to a state trooper waiting downstream who can stop the offending motorist and issue a ticket.
“It makes it easier to enforce red light violators … and the risks they pose,” said Capt. Brad Ouart, commander of the State Patrol’s St. Cloud District.
The pilot project is a cooperative venture between the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The two agencies have been working together since 2012 to come up with a tool to help law enforcement crack down on the growing problem of motorists ignoring red lights, said Thomas Dumont, a MnDOT engineer.
The system, which cost $200,000 to develop, uses two cameras. One is focused on the signal to capture the moment it turns from yellow to red. A second camera is focused on vehicles passing through the intersection. If a driver blows a red light, the cameras capture the infraction and alert an officer with a tone. The officer can watch the video in real time and issue the driver a $175 citation.
“It provides proof of the violation,” said Bruce Gordon, a DPS spokesman. “Those people [red light runners] we believe need to be held accountable.”
Over the past three years, 22 people have been killed in crashes in which a driver failed to stop at a red light. There were 126 crashes that led to serious injuries and 2,000 crashes in which at least one person was hurt, according to DPS.
The technology is different from automated red-light cameras of the past, Dumont said.
Previous versions, such as when Minneapolis instituted “photo cop” from July 2005 through March 2006, simply snapped pictures of vehicles blasting through red lights and generated a ticket that was sent by mail to the vehicle owner. But the cameras were turned off when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that they violated state law because there was no way to prove that the vehicle’s owner was the actual driver.
With the new system, “nobody is writing a ticket later,” Ouart said. The camera captures the infraction and an officer on-site can verify the driver and issue a citation.
“It’s a wonderful tool that meets state statutes and enhances safety,” said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis. “It uses technology in a way to reduce incidents.”
MnDOT and the State Patrol rolled out the system at the St. Cloud intersection, which has consistently been flagged by MnDOT as one of the most dangerous in the state in terms of crashes.
“We want people to slow down, pay attention and obey traffic signals,” Ouart said.