Minnesotans for Safe Driving’s traffic safety agenda at the Capitol this 2015 session was very full of must needed changes to the law. But as often happens at the Legislature, compromises and politics come into play. We didn’t get all we wanted but some significant changes to law did come out of the session
DWI Law - Penalties for DWI offenders are based on many factors, one is the level of alcohol intoxication. If the person is arrested for their first DWI and their alcohol concentration is twice the legal limit, their penalty is enhanced from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. Also their license revocation time is extended and Ignition Interlock is required to reinstate their driver’s license. When the level for the per se went from .10 to .08 alcohol concentration a few years ago, the enhancement level went from .20 to .16 on the administrative track, driver’s license penalty, but not the criminal track. The legislature corrected the law this year by aligning both the criminal and the administrative track to have the enhancement point on both at .16 alcohol concentration. Statistics show that the average fatal crash alcohol level of the offender is .16. People who have this high of alcohol concentration are the most likely driver to be in a crash. The system needs to put more emphasis on these drivers so that they will change their behavior so they are not involved in a crash in the future. We would like to thank our chief authors of this bill. Sen. Ron Latz and Rep. Jerry Hertaus
Non-alcohol related crash penalties – For many years the advocacy groups, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, A.B.A.T.E. and Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota have been going to the legislature to encourage support for increasing the penalty to a driver who causes a crash that seriously injured or killed someone that was not alcohol or drug related. Finally a bill was passed. It wasn’t as broad based as we would have liked, but it is a step in the right direction. The law changed the definition of reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor as is careless driving. Reckless driving definition had been driving in a manner as to indicate a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, which is a very high standard, to the new language which is .. p situation. If a driver is convicted of reckless driving and a death or serious injury results to another person, that offender will have the penalty enhanced to a gross misdemeanor. That person could be given a sentence of up to one year in jail, a $3000 fine and 2 years’ probation. If the court system and the law doesn’t treat these crashes seriously by an enhanced penalty over the same driving behavior without a serious crash, how will the public ever change their viewpoint on these crashes and stop looking at them as just accidents! We would like to thank our chief authors of this bill, Sen. Jim Carlson and Rep. Pat Garofalo
The picture above is from the ceremonial signing of the bill by Governor Dayton. In attendance from MSD were Sharon Gehrman-Driscoll, Jon Cummings, Jill Johnson, Laurie Hevier and Cathy Ciaciura. Others attending were from the other advocacy groups and legislators.
Texting and Driving – More and more people are multi-tasking in their vehicles which is very dangerous when driving. Texting seems to be the most dangerous because the driver’s eyes are off the road for the longest period. The penalty now for a texting ticket is $50 but there is no enhancement of the fine for a repeat offense. With the new law each violation after the first will have an added cost to the $50 of $225 plus other fees.
All of these new laws go into effect on violations after August 1, 2015
The picture above is from the ceremonial signing of the texting and driving legislation. Nancy Johnson represented MSD at that signing
Follow the legislative procedure by going to the website of the Minnesota Legislature www.leg.state.mn.us
How a bill becomes law www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/howbill.asp
To find out who your legislator is go to www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder.asp
If you are looking for traffic safety rules, regulations and laws go to www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169
And for alcohol and drug traffic laws www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169A