Crashes and tickets: where Southwest’s worst spots are

You've finished a long day of work downtown and you're racing home, knowing that your Southwest Journal will be waiting for you on your doorstep. You shoot along Lyndale Avenue, through the intersection at Franklin, barely making that (mostly) yellow light before it turns (mostly) red.

At Franklin & Nicollet, you fly through another yellow-red light without incident. You're almost home, except for one thing: the Minneapolis police car on your tail, flashing its lights.

Consider yourself lucky. You drove carelessly through Southwest's two most notorious intersections with only a 169.06(4)(a) -- failure to obey a traffic control device and a 169.14(2)(a) -- speeding.

At $130 per, you have lots to whine about, but less than if you had T-boned a car turning left in front of you.

Franklin & Lyndale is Southwest's most dangerous intersection, with 78 accidents over the past four years that produced 28 injuries, according to Lt. Jeff Rugel, head of the Minneapolis Police traffic enforcement unit. It's the city's fifth-most-dangerous intersection, while Franklin & Nicollet ranks sixth, with 75 accidents and 37 injuries in the same period.

Pay attention or you'll pay

Rugel said it's pretty easy to figure out why accidents happen: drivers don't pay attention to traffic laws or traffic.

Accidents "get chalked up in a lot of ways. People say, 'It was icy' or 'It was dark and I couldn't see.' Well, basically, if it's icy, you need to go slower. If it's dark, you need to go slower. If you didn't see somebody, it's because you didn't look in both directions. It comes down to inattentiveness or a failure to adapt your driving to conditions," he said.

Other Southwest intersections among the city's worst over the past four years include:

– Lyndale & Lake, 65 crashes, 35 injuries;

– 26th & Nicollet, 63 crashes, 30 injuries;

– 22nd & Lyndale, 60 crashes, 25 injuries;

– Lake & Dean Boulevard, 59 crashes, 43 injuries.

By way of comparison, the city's worst intersection, West Broadway Avenue & Washington Avenue North, had 105 accidents in that time period.

Rugel said most of the streets involved are "main arterial streets that go all the way into downtown in some form or another. They are big-time commercial streets, with lots of businesses."

The math, he said, is painfully simple: "The more cars you have, the more crashes you're likely to have."

Ticket to ride

Rugel said most Southwest moving violations for speeding. "For a couple reasons, but primarily because you can set out to catch speeders. You can go and sit on Lyndale with a radar gun or laser gun and shoot every car that comes down the street and those that are speeding, write 'em tickets."

Although ticketing statistics aren't kept for Southwest, Rugel knows from experience that other popular moving violations include illegal left-hand turns, running red lights, equipment violations (headlights or taillights out, for instance) and driver's license violations.

Another one that gets attention from Southwest cops is the boom car. You know 'em, you hate 'em: they're the cars booming out R. Kelly, Outkast or, heaven help us all, Barry Manilow, at unbearable decibel levels.

These tickets are tracked separately from other violations, so there are statistics available. Example: There have been 50 excessive-sound tickets written in Southwest's 5th Precinct this year through October, one-quarter of the city's total.

Tickets for driver's license issues are also tracked separately, so we know that through October, 665 DAS (Driving After Suspension) tickets have been written in Southwest, 335 for DAR (Driving After Revocation) 104 for driving with canceled licenses and 510 for people caught driving without any license whatsoever.

Drunk-driving violations are also tracked separately. Through October, there were 143 wastoids flagged in Southwest (plus another 23 who were ticketed after refusing to take an Breathalyzer test), and six more who got paper for aggravated DWI.

The ticket handed out most frequently in Southwest, and citywide, is the groan-inducing parking tag. Marcy Podkopacz, director of research for Hennepin County District Court, said statistics for Southwest aren't kept but that there were 386,000 parking tickets handed out in Hennepin County last year -- more than 1,000 per day -- while other traffic tickets totaled 251,000.

She said those numbers should go up when this year's tabulations are completed.

"We have seen major increases between 2002 and 2003, and it seems to be continuing in 2004. Cities have figured out it's a good way to make money," she said.

Fine whine

Here's a sampling of the fines you'll pay, no matter how much or little you whine, if you violate traffic laws:

Most parking tickets are $33. Exceptions include unauthorized use of a handicapped permit, which will run you $503.

Moving violations aren't always for violations of moving vehicles. For example, you'll be fined $290 for abandoning a vehicle.

The most common moving violations, according to Rugel, are for speeding. Speed in a school zone, and it'll set you back $197. You'll get the same fine for speeding in a construction zone, while regular ol' zooming along too quickly costs a mere $130.

Failure to yield to a funeral? Pay $130 for your irreverence. And if you have more than three people in the front seat of your car, expect to get a $120 ticket.

Driving without insurance will cost you $280, while hitching a sled or toboggan to a vehicle is going to set you back $130.

Equipment violations are also common, Rugel said. Driving without headlights? Pay $120. Driving without a seatbelt? $88. Got no muffler? 120 bucks. And the infamous "leaking load" violation? It's $180. (If you have to ask what it is, you're probably not in violation.)

Driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license all set you back 180 clams.