Local groups work ‘Toward Zero Deaths’
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
When Minnesota began the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) initiative in 2000 (then called Safe and Sober), statewide annual traffic fatalities were 625.
This number decreased to 368 in 2011, and 380 in 2012, due in large part to an initiative called “The Four ‘E’s.”
The Four Es focus on education, emergency medical services, engineering and enforcement.
“A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota, with motorists supporting a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting smart driving behavior,” said County Health Educator Carolyn Suska, coordinator for Morrison County Safe Roads Coalition, a local group working as part of TZD.
The Safe Roads Coalition in Morrison County, one of 20 coalitions around the state, was formed in 2009. It meets at least six times a year. The members work together on projects that get the word out to the public about driving safety.
Members include local, county and state law enforcement members, schools, businesses, engineers, the county attorney, emergency services personnel and community members.
“We want to reduce the number of deaths or serious injuries due to vehicle crashes in Morrison County,” Suska said.
Child car safety seats have been installed and classes conducted for 42 pregnant moms and children this year.
“We received some seats through a grant for people with no health coverage,” said Theresa Scherping of Morrison County’s Public Health Department.
Law enforcement members attended the car seat class as well, so they know what to look for during traffic stops.
While Suska coordinates the coalition and manages the education component of TZD, emergency medical services, engineering and enforcement agencies are also involved.
A mock car crash conducted in Upsala in April is an example of education being combined with emergency services and law enforcement to portray a strong message to teens.
May is Seat Belt Month, with window clings, postcards, yard signs and electronic boards being distributed or located throughout the community to remind residents.
The Coalition provides handouts to the public at events such as the Morrison County Fair, National Night Out and the Coborn’s Impaired Driving Event.
Law enforcement representatives attend coalition meetings to report on law enforcement waves that focus on seat belt use, child car seat checks, distracted and/or impaired driving campaigns and speeding.
“During the law enforcement campaigns, we distribute window clings, bar coasters to liquor establishments, signs and banners in the community,” Suska said.
A “safe ride” presentation was held for all liquor establishment owners in fall 2012, explaining the different options available to start a safe ride home from bars.
“We also work to remind patients, family members and bystanders to call 911 to activate the most appropriate resource in an emergency,” said Paul McIntyre of Gold Cross Ambulance.
The engineering component of the initiative is applied to improved highway design.
“We use a wider highway edge line now,” said Tom Daniels, Morrison County Public Works assistant engineer. “Chevron signs are being installed on curves around the county.”
Other modifications include a more gradual transition to the shoulder at the edge of the road, and a change from engineering-grade signs to high-intensity prismatic street and traffic signs.
“This is for everyone’s benefit,” McIntyre said. “We’re trying to help do a good thing for everybody.”