Sen. Nelson bill to close traffic law loophole for light rail drivers unanimously passes MN Senate

Bipartisan legislation applies current carless and reckless driving laws to light rail operators

Bipartisan legislation chief-authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) to close a loophole in Minnesota traffic law unanimously passed the Minnesota State Senate on Monday, April 1. The need for this change was made clear due to a tragic light rail accident that caused the death of 29-year-old Nic Westlake and severely injured his fiancé Neli Petkova. While traveling in their car together, a light rail train struck their vehicle after the operator ignored traffic signals urging the train to stop. While the investigation found the operator to be at fault, he was unable to be charged with careless or reckless driving as current law excludes “devices used exclusively upon stationary rail or tracks.” Senator Nelson’s legislation would close that loophole.

“By closing this loophole, we are simply applying our current traffic laws to light rail operators,” said Senator Nelson. “No light rail operator should be exempt from traffic violations such as speeding, running a red light, or reckless driving. This not only makes our laws uniform and fair, but it allows some form of small justice for Nic Westlake and his family.”

After unanimously passing the Minnesota State Senate, the bill now heads to the House of Representatives for their consideration.