Apr 4, 2019 | By: Rachel Johnson

Toward Zero Deaths Campaign To Shift Focus To Highway 371

Motorists traveling on Highway 371 between Walker and Fort Ripley will soon see an increase in patrols as the Toward Zero Deaths campaign focuses their efforts on the busy highway.

The Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths campaign has the belief that even one traffic-related death on our roads in unacceptable.

“We have work left to do. There are people dying on our roads, dying in ways that are considerably preventable,” said Tom Nixon, Towards Zero Deaths East Central Minnesota Coordinator.

In recent years, the initiative has seen success in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The campaign had previously been focusing on the Highway 210 Corridor project where they had seen a 24% drop in car crashes over the last year.

“Locally, what we’ve tried to do is take that TZD concept and just kind of bring it home. Last year we kicked off the #Highway210 Safety Project,” explained Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted.

This year, TZD is shifting their focus to another busy roadway, Highway 371.

“Especially from fishing opener all the way through the rest of the year where we see an influx of visitors to our lakes area, and we just want to make sure that they are safe during their commutes,” said Joe Dwyer, Minnesota State Patrol Captain District Commander.

Towards Zero Deaths was launched in 2003 in order to bring local jurisdictions and agencies together to work toward zero deaths on our roadways.

“Just over 15 years ago the state’s leaders looked at what was happening on our roadways. In 2003, we were in a projection to continue to climb. There was nearly 650 some fatalities a year at that time,” Nixon explained.

“The Brainerd Police Department did a collaborative grant and all the local jurisdictions jumped on at that time in the early 2000s,” said Exsted.

Though the program has been successful and the number of crashes on some roads has decreased, they know there is still work to be done.

“Our long-term goal is to have one death be a surprise, as in, you open the paper after a long holiday weekend and it’s not expected that you’re going to see there was a traffic crash over the weekend,” Nixon added.

“The number one goal, we’re in the business of saving lives, and if we can prevent even one tragedy on our roadways, then we are working towards accomplishing our mission,” said Dwyer.

This summer locals and tourists alike can look forward to increased patrols so hopefully there are less crashes in years to come.

“Be aware that we are out there and we are focusing our enforcement efforts on that 371 corridor this year,” said Exsted. “And hoping to save some lives.”

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