Traffic cameras are likely coming to Minneapolis, focusing on high-crash intersections that drivers are known to speed through. Details on the traffic camera pilot program were shared by the City of Minneapolis Vision Zero coordinator at a virtual open house on Jan. 22.

High-injury streets of Minneapolis

The purpose of traffic cameras would focus on decreasing reckless driving and the number of fatal crashes in the city. According to Vision Zero Coordinator Ethan Fawley, preliminary data show there were 21 fatal crashes in 2023, which is on par with the high rate of fatal crashes that the city has seen since 2021. In 2021 and 2022, 65% of those deaths were attributed to obvious speeding.

Fatal traffic deaths in Minneapolis 2016-2022. Data provided by the Public Works Department.

Outside research shows pedestrians have a 73% risk of dying or suffering a severe injury when struck by a car going 40 mph or faster. That risk drops to 13% when a car is traveling 20 mph or slower.

The initial traffic camera pilot program will involve roughly 10 cameras at high-crash intersections already recognized by the City. Southwest Minneapolis has a relatively low rate of high-injury and high-crash intersections compared to other areas of Minneapolis.

A map showing the amount of severe and fatal crashes across Minneapolis on non-freeway streets from 2017-2021. Data provided by the Public Works Department.

It is possible the City will include a red light-running traffic camera program. Research shows those programs have not decreased fatal and serious crashes to the extent that speed cameras have in other cities.

At the open house Fawley said studies have “consistently” shown that speed safety cameras have been found to reduce speeds, traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths. Severe and fatal crashes have been reduced anywhere from 19% to 56% at intersections using speed safety cameras. The Federal Highway Association now calls the cameras a “proven safety countermeasure.”

The Minneapolis Police Department will not be in charge of the traffic camera program. According to Fawley, it will be a Public Works or Regulatory Services program. Signs will be posted near the traffic camera intersections, letting drivers know cameras are in operation.

Traffic violations caught by the cameras will not impact a person’s driving record or driver’s insurance. The first violation will result in a warning, followed by a $40 ticket or a mandatory driving-related class on the second violation. Further violations will be a $40 ticket. The driver has to be driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit to receive a violation. (Minneapolis has a base speed limit of 20 mph.)

In 2007, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the City of Minneapolis didn't have the "statutory authority" to operate its PhotoCop traffic camera program.

Both State senators and House representatives are currently working on passing legislation that allows local communities across the state to use traffic cameras at high-crash locations near schools. Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Jamie Long are authors on the bills, all of whom represent Southwest Minneapolis.

Minneapolis will not move forward with the traffic camera program without the state-wide legislation passing. The State legislature passed a transportation policy and finance bill this summer that included a call for a task force to study the use of traffic cameras for the purpose of legalizing them in Minnesota. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 19 states and Washington D.C. have legalized traffic cameras. Fawley said over 200 cities nationwide have traffic camera programs.

The earliest the traffic camera pilot would start in Minneapolis is spring 2025, assuming the State legislation passes. It is not clear how popular the bills are throughout the legislature but all of the authors are from the DFL party, which holds a super majority in the House and Senate.

There will be a second open house about the traffic camera pilot program, this time in-person, on Jan. 29 with two presentations at 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. at the Minneapolis Public Service Building. The building’s address is 505 4th Avenue South, Room 100.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, it was reported that the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the PhotoCop program was ruled unconstitutional. The story has been corrected to state the City didn't have the authority to run the program.