Local efforts to have zero deaths on roads recognized
BAXTER--More than 1,000 hours worked by 25-plus law enforcement agencies; 17 intoxicated drivers taken off the roads and highways; 200-plus people pulled over for speeding, seat belt, distracted driving and other violations.
BAXTER-More than 1,000 hours worked by 25-plus law enforcement agencies; 17 intoxicated drivers taken off the roads and highways; 200-plus people pulled over for speeding, seat belt, distracted driving and other violations.
An effort geared to save all that may just save one loved one?
That priceless work done by law enforcement agencies in the Brainerd lakes area in the Toward Zero Death grant were recognized Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety-Office of Traffic Safety during a luncheon at the Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter.
Brainerd was awarded the 2015 TZD Commissioner's Award for its work in serving its citizens by preventing deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes. The TZD grant is a distracted driving education component of Minnesota's core traffic safety effort. The primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior.
The TZD program gives awards each year to recognize agencies demonstrating excellence in their efforts to move Minnesota toward zero deaths, Gordy Pehrson of the Office of Traffic Safety said at the luncheon in front of several lakes area police officers, Crow Wing County Sheriff's deputies and Minnesota State Patrol troopers. The recipients were selected by the OTS Law Enforcement Liaisons and the selection committee then chose Brainerd as the winner.
The criteria of the award was:
- Continuous, coordinated enforcement efforts throughout the year.
- Participation in community awareness, media and education programs.
- Citations generally exceed warnings.
- Active participation with local TZD Safe Roads Coalitions.
- Timely and accurate reporting and invoicing.
- Short reports completed by all partner agencies.
As part of the award, Brainerd Police Officer Tony Runde, who coordinates the Toward Zero Death grant, attended the OTS Lifesavers Conference in California and each of the partnering agencies will attend the statewide TZD conference June 16-17 in Duluth.
The Brainerd TZD Enforcement Grant was an estimated $57,000 and allowed eight agencies, including Brainerd, Baxter, Breezy Point, Crosby, Cuyuna, Crosslake and Pequot Lakes police departments and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office to conduct extra enforcement on the roads and highways from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015.
During the extra enforcements periods, the agencies conducted:
- The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office had seven deputies participate who worked 174.25 hours, made eight arrests-one for DWI-and wrote 79 citations.
- Brainerd police had nine officers participate who worked 264 hours, made 12 arrests-six for DWI-and wrote 125 citations.
- Baxter police had four officers participate who worked 115.5 hours, made two DWI arrests and wrote 39 citations.
- Breezy Point police had three officers participate, who worked 167.75 hours, made 12 arrests-three for DWI-and wrote 85 citations.
- Crosby police had three officers participate who worked 173 hours, made two DWI arrests and wrote 37 citations.
- Crosslake police had two officers participate who made one DWI arrest and wrote 25 citations.
- Cuyuna police had one officer participate who worked 18 hours, made one arrest and wrote 37 citations.
- Pequot Lakes police had three officers participate who made three arrests and wrote 38 citations.
Individuals awards also were given to:
- Brainerd Patrolman Derek Pallansch, receiving the Outstanding DWI Enforcement Award.
- Baxter Police Officer Clayton Barg, receiving the Outstanding Seat Belt Enforcement Award.
- Crosslake Police Sgt. Erik Lee, receiving the Outstanding Speed Enforcement Award and the Outstanding Officer Contacts Award.
"There is so much good work being done across the state by law enforcement agencies and it is an important time of the year to recognize the best of the best," DPS Commissioner Ramona L. Dohman said. "It encourages others to step up their game a little bit or change their ways or look at the best of the best for new ideas.
"We do this to save lives. The work they are doing is driving those numbers down closer to zero and that's our goal."
When looking at how the number zero came about in having Toward Zero Death, Dohman said, "If we don't pick zero, what number do we pick? Is it 10 or 100? If that 10 is one of your family members that's not OK. So there is no number between where we are now today to the number zero. ... Zero is the only number."
"We are not going to stop until we reach our goal of zero," Runde said. "We're honored to have received this award and realize there is still much work that needs to be done."
During the luncheon, Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston stated his gratitude to all the people involved in making the TZD grant, from the city of Brainerd and the DPS commissioner, to area law enforcement and the TZD law enforcement liaisons, to the OTS for coordinating all the efforts to help make the goal to have zero deaths on the state roads and highways.
McQuiston also recognized retired Brainerd Police Sgt. Becky Putzke, who was instrumental in collaborating the TZD program since its beginning with the state.
"She recognized the important work that had to be done and she made it easier for Tony and I to step into this," McQuiston said.
Putzke said it has been nice to see the program grow from when she started in 1995, when the it was known as the safe and sober program. The program became TZD in 2003. Putzke said anything to help save one person on the roads is worth the effort.
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said with Putzke's efforts, Brainerd was the second in the state to receive a multi-jurisdictional grant to work toward safer roads. Exsted said police worked on traffic safety before it become a requirement.
"A lot of hard work done here for years and years," Exsted said. "Seat belt use is up, this is an easy one to observe, but distracted driving continues to be a problem. ... It is a difficult thing to enforce and hard to detect and prove. We will continue to work on that.
"With being a tourism area, traffic in the summer increases and it all adds vehicle miles to the roads. Unfortunately, we continue to be one of the leading counties in the state for fatality numbers."
Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl said it is nice to see Brainerd TZD recognized for their work, as the deputies and officers involved put in extra time to help make people safe, which is important. Dahl said the OTS and law enforcement from across the state are gaining ground to making roads safer. However, he said they need to focus on the problem of texting and driving.
"One death is too many," Dahl said. "We will keep going forward and hopefully everyone will get the message. We do this through education and getting our message out there that we will be enforcing the law."
Lee said he has enjoyed working with the other officers on the extra enforcement through the grant. Lee said the grant helps get officers on the road more than be in the office. Lee believes DWI arrests are down and agreed with the other officers that distracted driving continues to be a major issue on the roads.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.