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Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Working To Improve Traffic Safety: Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths

A question asked at last week’s Toward Zero Deaths Stakehold­ers meeting in Two Harbors was, “What should the goal be regard­ing an acceptable number of traffic deaths, per year, in Minnesota?” In 2003, 655 people were killed on State roadways. That number has come down significantly over the last 20 years thanks to the efforts of a growing number of people, many of whom work behind the scenes, to increase traffic safety for both pedestrians and vehicles in Minne­sota.

Toward Zero Deaths is a partnership between the Minneso­ta Departments of Public Safety, Transportation, Health, the Uni­versity of Minnesota and other stakeholders. Their mission is to encourage local partnerships be­tween law enforcement, educators, highway engineers, healthcare pro­fessionals and concerned citizens, that will lead to a culture in which traffic fatalities and serious injuries are no longer acceptable.

Present at last week’s meeting were the Mayors of Beaver Bay and Two Harbors, representatives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Silver Bay Police Depart­ment, Minnesota Highway Patrol, Lake County Public Health, Lake View Hospital, Lake County High­way Department and others. One reason for the push to organize a local TZD group in our area is that doing so now will provide Two Harbors and other Lake County communities with the opportuni­ty to access grant funding that can help stakeholders work to improve traffic safety for all in Lake Coun­ty. On the Law Enforcement side of the equation, Federal dollars are available to help fund overtime pay so that local law enforcement agencies can increase their ability to provide security and safety for events like the Tall Ships Festival and other North Shore events that attract large crowds. With regard to partnerships, grant funding can help with the purchase of needed materials and activities that stake­holders can use in the community to promote educational programs related to traffic safety. Such activ­ities may include programs in area schools to educate students about the main causes of traffic accidents and fatalities, (speed, not using seat belts, inattentive driving and use of intoxicants). While law enforce­ment officers and EMS personnel often devote time to these activi­ties, mention was made of an annu­al, one-day teen-led conference that is held in Thief River Falls where high school students organize and present a day-long informational, hands-on gathering so that their peers can learn about issues related to traffic safety for motorists and pe­destrians. There are also programs that are geared toward senior adults and their families, to help senior drivers hone their awareness of traffic safety and, when the time comes, know when it is time to set aside their driver’s license.

Several of the participants at last week’s meeting spoke from their professional perspectives about measures currently being em­ployed to improve traffic safety. While the use of flashing signs to reduce speeds in populated areas can help, more effective measures require things like redesigning roadways and installing round­abouts at intersections. Intersec­tions are often the most dangerous feature that both motorists and pe­destrians will encounter. A mem­ber of the Highway Department stated that there have not been any deaths at roundabouts, nationwide, since they came into use in the U.S. in the 1990s.

So, consider again that question of what an acceptable number of traffic deaths per year in Minne­sota would be. Let’s think about our family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. What percentage of those folks, perhaps suffering injury or death in a traffic accident, is acceptable?

Readers who are interested in learning more about the work of Toward Zero Deaths can access the TZD website at www.minnesotatzd.org.  If you are interested in getting directly involved in Lake County, contact Northeast MN TZD Coordinator, Rahya Geisler at rahya.giesler@state.mn.us or call 218-830-1477.

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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