BRAINERD, Minn. — Whether late for work or just simply impatient — especially during busy traffic hours on busy lakes area roads — running red lights happens a lot, lakes area law enforcement officials say.
Motorists — especially those prone to running a red light — may now want to think twice.
The Brainerd, Minn., area now has nine traffic lights, with three more to be equipped, with a blue light that’s meant to help catch red-light scofflaws. The blue light is very noticeable during the nighttime hours and can be seen from a distance. During the daytime hours, a motorist may still see the light.
So what does this blue light do?
The main purpose of the blue lights is to help law enforcement officers catch drivers running a red light in an efficient and safe manner. The blue lights come on when the signal turns red so officers can see the blue light and what vehicle has entered the intersection while in their squad vehicle at a distance.
Baxter, Minn., Police Chief Jim Exsted said having the blue lights installed in the lakes area began with discussions about four years ago with the Brainerd’s Toward Zero Deaths group. The group uses education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services with the goal to have zero deaths on Minnesota roads and highways. Brainerd Toward Zero Deaths group members saw this blue light in other states and thought it would be a good idea to add the blue lights to the lakes area.
Discussions began with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and all the agencies involved agreed it would be a good idea.
MnDOT Traffic Engineer Ken Hansen of District 3, Baxter and St, Cloud offices, worked with the Minnesota State Patrol and the police chiefs in Brainerd, Baxter and Aitkin on the plan for the new lights. Equipment and installation of the nine lights was just under $16,000. Hansen said the blue lights have LED indication and are tied to the traffic lights so when the light turns red the blue light will go on.
“It’s horrible,” Lt. Brad Bordwell of the Minnesota State Patrol Brainerd District said of motorists running red lights. “It’s one of my pet peeves. ... Today (Tuesday) was bad. I was going northbound on Highway 371 and we had the green light to go north and four more vehicles turned through the intersection. ... It drives me crazy. And I am back in traffic so I can’t do anything about it because I’m in the wrong lane and I can’t go over to get them.
“It’s a big issue of people running red lights. This seems so simple to me... people just need to slow down and not run red lights.”