U study questions Minnesota speed laws

University researchers found an amendment doesn’t impact safety but may raise insurance rates for drivers.

U study questions Minnesota speed laws

Brian Edwards

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are questioning the effectiveness of an amendment made to a Minnesota speeding law nearly 30 years ago.

The University’s Center for Transportation Studies published a report last month that found an amendment to a state law — which exempts low-level speeding tickets from being placed onto driver’s records — doesn’t produce any significant changes in travel reliability, safety or efficiency. Instead, researchers found people are unaware of how the amendment affects them, and it may increase drivers’ insurance rates.

The amendment, also known as the Dimler amendment, withholds tickets from a driver’s record if they are caught going up to 10 mph over the speed limit on 55 mph roads. In 2012, it was adjusted to include a similar limit on 60 mph roads. Though a driver can still receive a citation for speeding in these zones, the ticket doesn’t go on their record.

The Legislature commissioned the University to measure the safety and effectiveness of the amendment. According to the study, there weren’t any safety or travel changes as a result of the Dimler amendment.

In addition, some say the amendment should be repealed because it causes insurance rate increases.

Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said the amendment increases all insurance rates, regardless of a person’s driving record.

“Your driving record is not a true and accurate representation of how you really drive,” Kulda said. “For the insurance industry, that’s a problem.”

Still, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said he believes the amendment has been successful and doesn’t believe it should repealed.

“Speed didn’t increase, more people died, but something else caused it,” he said. “So why not allow for the … amendment to continue?”

Former state Rep. Chuck Dimler, I-Chanhassen, authored the amendment, which passed in 1986. He said legislators were worried about rising insurance rates because of the Interstate Driving Compact, a system created to ensure all traffic laws are consistent in participating states.

Legislators also projected that lowering the national maximum speed limit to 55 mph during the 1973 oil shortage would increase the number of speeding tickets, said Frank Douma, a research fellow at CTS who led the study.

If a state had a speed limit higher than 55 mph, then it would lose federal transportation funding, he said.

“That got states’ attention, and they all changed their speed limits,” Douma said.

The amendment was created to protect people from insurance increases, Dimler said.

In 1995, the National Highway Designation Act repealed the national 55 mph speed limit. After the repeal, it didn’t make sense to keep the Dimler amendment, Douma said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation conducted a survey in 2012 to see how many citizens knew about the exemptions under the Dimler amendment.

“People don’t really know that the law exists,” Douma said, adding that it only adds to an already confusing set of speeding laws. “You have what is actually a fairly confusing speed regime in Minnesota, and this only adds to the confusion.”