They say it’s an effort to make Wabasha County roads safer — to save lives, to correct dangerous behavior, and make a more meaningful impact on drivers than would simple citation fines. However, Wabasha County’s Safe Driving Class has resulted in the county, along with the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Attorney General and state auditor, becoming embroiled in a lawsuit.
A group of citizens, along with current Wabasha County Commissioners Deb Rosen and David Harms, have filed a lawsuit in Wabasha County District Court, alleging the Safe Driving Class is illegal. The class allows those who have received a minor traffic citation to attend a $125 class, rather than pay the typical fine, and the citation will be waived. Basic speeding tickets cost $127, and the majority of the payment is given to the state. According to the Wabasha County website detailing the class, by paying for the class instead of the ticket, “the money will stay in the county and will be used specifically for training and equipment related to traffic enforcement.”
The program was recently scrutinized for not being authorized under state law. According to Attorney Erick G. Kaardal, of Mohrman & Kaardal, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case, the state auditor previously warned county officials that the program was unlawful. “Since the auditor and other state officials also refused to take action or otherwise work with Wabasha citizens to correct the county’s illegality, the state of Minnesota, the state attorney general, and the state auditor’s office were necessarily named as defendants in the action,” wrote Kaardal in a release.