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Downtown Brainerd sober ride program moves closer to start

Providing alternatives for people to prevent drunken driving is one goal of the Brainerd Lakes Toward Zero Deaths coalition in its effort to move toward zero traffic fatalities.

TZD Illustration
Brainerd Dispatch illustration
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BRAINERD — Local law enforcement are continuing to move forward with a new Better Bar Safe Ride program.

“We were able to work things out and figure things out on (the transportation) end and now we're really trying to go live on July 1,” said Baxter Assistant Police Chief Matt Maier in a phone interview.

The program secured $4,500 in funding and organizers are working on a contract with Brainerd Community Action to handle the funds for the group. Plans call for the pilot program to focus on Brainerd’s downtown bar district, as it has one of the highest concentrations of bars and restaurants in the county. Expanding to Baxter and the rest of Crow Wing County would come later.

Providing alternatives for people to prevent drunken driving is one goal of the Brainerd Lakes Toward Zero Deaths coalition in its effort to move toward zero traffic fatalities. During fishing opener weekend, 768 law enforcement stops resulted in 16 driving while intoxicated arrests and 70 tickets for people not using seat belts. Seat belt enforcement in the area near the end of May resulted in law enforcement issuing five tickets for unbelted passengers.

The Brainerd lakes organization was formed to bring together local communities, law enforcement, educators, engineers, court services and emergency response personnel to focus on a goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities.

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Brainerd lakes area public safety officials hosted a cornhole tournament Friday, Aug. 12, to continue their effort to engage with community members.

The group met earlier this month at the Brainerd Police Department to discuss the summer season in the lakes area and what it seeks to do to keep drivers safe. With about 18 members in attendance from around the Brainerd lakes area, the group talked about their plans for educating the public along with how the previous campaigns went.

During the meeting, community volunteer Deb Prazak talked about the group's Driver Safety Tips marketing campaign and how to implement it over the summer. She stated she would work with a few other members to take photos for the seat belt campaign.

The overall Toward Zero Deaths program was created in 2003, during a time of increasing traffic fatalities in Minnesota. The program looks to coordinate the traffic safety efforts of the departments of Public Safety, Health and Transportation and was modeled after Sweden’s Vision Zero Program.

In 2002, the year before the program got its start, there were 657 traffic fatalities in the state trending upward year by year. There were 394 traffic deaths in 2020 — about a 40% decrease from the 2002 numbers.

More information on the Brainerd Lakes Toward Zero Deaths coalition can be found at facebook.com/TZDBLakes .

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY
Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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