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All Press Releases for February 28, 2014 »
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MN driver safety program to help offenders escape tickets ruled illegal

The risk of receiving a ticket is one factor that motivates people to drive safely, but drivers who violated traffic laws in certain parts of Minnesota could take a safety course instead of receiving a ticket
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    February 28, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Typically, the risk of receiving a ticket is one factor that motivates people to drive safely, but for years, drivers who violated traffic laws in certain parts of Minnesota have had the opportunity to take a safety course instead of receiving a ticket. In theory, safety courses teach good habits that reduce the risk of drivers being involved in car accidents, but still, the thought of so many traffic violations going unpunished and unrecorded is troubling from a safety standpoint.

Fortunately for other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, a Wabasha County court has declared one of these programs illegal, according to the Star Tribune, and programs in other counties may soon meet similar fates. This should increase transparency and help keep unsafe drivers off the roads in Minneapolis and other parts of the state.

Unauthorized programs offer ticket alternative

According to the Star Tribune, there are about 30 programs in Minnesota that will waive traffic tickets if drivers pay to take a safety course. These programs would typically be available for minor offenses rather than violations that caused accidents or injuries. Drivers who take these courses are spared from having a traffic violation added to their records and from insurance premium increases. As an added financial benefit, the safety courses are often less expensive than a ticket fine.

The Wabasha County lawsuit pertained to the legality of this program. The diversion programs allow counties to collect money that should have been going to the state, which has already led the state auditor to declare them illegal. Additionally, local authorities do not have the right to offer diversion programs to offenders; only county prosecutors are granted that power.

Although legal and financial factors motivated the lawsuit, the court decision may also have an impact on road safety. When motorists had the option of taking these classes, the number of traffic violations that they committed was unknown, particularly if drivers committed offenses in different counties and took different classes. Now, drivers who commit an inordinate number of traffic violations can be punished appropriately instead of being allowed to continue driving and potentially putting other drivers in harm's way.

Minnesota traffic violation consequences

In Minnesota, penalties such as license suspension are based on the number of offenses that a driver commits rather than a point system. According to the Minnesota Administrative Rules, driver's license suspensions follow the guidelines below:
- A 30-day suspension for 4 violations in 12 months or 5 violations in 24 months.
- A 90-day suspension for 5 violations in 12 months or 6 violations in 24 months.
- A 180-day suspension for 7 violations in 24 months.
- A 365-day suspension for 8 or more violations in 24 months.

Considering the difference in suspension terms that just one violation makes, it is easy to see how drivers will be better motivated to follow traffic laws and honestly avoid tickets if diversion programs throughout the state are deemed illegal or simply shuttered.

Unfortunately, some traffic violations go unpunished, and some people who have received tickets or even had their licenses suspended still choose to make risky decisions when driving. If you or any loved ones are affected in an accident with a driver who was committing a traffic violation or otherwise at fault, please consider speaking with an attorney about options for seeking compensation.

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