Many Minnesotans have received unwelcome surprises in their mailboxes in the form of traffic citations for offenses they may be completely unaware of.
This is due to a state law which allows police to ticket drivers who school bus drivers have reported for failing to obey extended stop signs. This can't be a very popular law, because the citation generally arrives long after the alleged violation, when motorists are in the helpless position of not remembering whether they're guilty or not. Still, it has probably gotten some drivers to think twice before passing a stopped school bus.
If the House Crime Committee has its way, firefighters and ambulance drivers will have similar authority to have offenders ticketed. In this case, it will be drivers who don't clear the road for emergency vehicles.
This won't make the law any more popular. But laws aren't (or shouldn't be) designed with popularity in mind, but to protect the public's welfare.
Firefighters and ambulance drivers have long complained that drivers are getting progressively heedless of their responsibility to get out of the way. And with automakers offering options that turn vehicles into virtual home entertainment units, the potential for distraction will only worsen.
Given the fact that emergency runs are often life-and-death situations, perhaps lawmakers should bite the bullet and clear the way for this legislation. It won't make emptying the mailbox any more fun, but it could make the state a safer place to live in.
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