Safety experts working to eliminate traffic deaths on Minnesota roads

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 7:02 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – More than 800 traffic safety efforts are Rochester to share ideas and experiences to help create a safer driving environment.

State officials say more than 400 people lost their lives in traffic-related crashes on Minnesota roads last year.

The Toward Zero Deaths program’s (TZD) mission is to create a culture for which traffic fatalities and serious injuries are no longer acceptable through the integrated application of education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency medical and trauma services.

Speaking with traffic safety experts during the two-day conference, we learned that contrary to popular belief, the deadliest time on our road is not during the winter months.

“The deadliest days on Minnesota roads start on Memorial Day and end on Labor Day,” said Mike Hanson, Director of the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety. “The summer months are by-far-and-away the deadliest time to be on Minnesota roads, and there is one reason for that -- road conditions are good, speeds are up. Speed equals energy, energy equals injury and death.”

Hanson added while fatalities are lower in the winter months, the number of crashes is higher.

He said the most important factors playing a role in those crashes are speed, impaired driving, lack of seat belt use, and distracted driving.

According to Hanson, there’s one thing all drivers should remember when behind the wheel.

“Be a defensive driver,” Hanson stresed. “Drivers are going to make mistakes, we get that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the results when they make that mistake, but we need to do a better job about being a defensive driver whose paying attention, obeying the speed limit, is not impaired and has a seat belt on.”

While there is still plenty of work to be done, the conference provides a unified effort for state traffic leaders to get closer to their ultimate goal.

“We all need to do this together, it’s not one piece that is going to solve the puzzle,” MnDOT State Traffic Safety Engineer Derek Leuer said. “We all have to work together, and this conference really is about building those relationships and those partnerships.”

“The fact that a state of our size can have over 850 people in attendance speaks volumes to the commitment, that all of our partners in the traffic safety world, have to committed to protecting Minnesotans on our roads all the time, everywhere,” concluded Hanson.

The conference will continue Wednesday at the Mayo Civic Center starting at 7:30 a.m.