Today, Governor Mark Dayton addressed more than 900 highway safety advocates at opening ceremonies of the annual Toward Zero Deaths conference in St. Cloud. Governor Dayton was on hand to kick off the two-day conference that serves as an information-sharing forum on eliminating traffic fatalities and life-changing injuries on Minnesota Roads.
"This tremendous effort by state and local officials and the cooperation of the people of Minnesota show that we can significantly reduce the deaths and destruction on Minnesota's roads, bridges, and highways," said Governor Dayton. "I thank the members of the Toward Zero Deaths committee for their hard work to reduce crashes and save lives."
Three Minnesota state agencies--Health, Public Safety and Transportation--have combined forces to support and promote the TZD effort in Minnesota. TZD uses a data-driven approach and expertise from different disciplines to build and use proven countermeasures.
"TZD melds Education, Enforcement, Engineering and Emergency medical services - the four E's - to effect change on our roadways," said Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle. "We find that when we collaborate, we build a more effective synergy than when one of those disciplines acts alone."
The conference provides information on a wide range of subjects. It offers new ideas developed by traffic engineers and provides training in media relations, and in establishing local safety coalitions. It provides opportunities to share ideas and techniques. And, it offers insight from emergency medical responders.
"Emergency responders and our state's trauma system do tremendous work saving lives under difficult circumstances," said Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger. "Our goal is to help them continue to build their capabilities while at the same time making sure there is less need for their services. We see TZD as an important step toward that goal."
Law enforcement also is a key element at the conference. Attendees learn how enforcement works to improve traffic safety and how it integrates with the other disciplines to achieve its goals.
"Most of the traffic crashes that occur on our roads each year are preventable," said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. "As an anchoring partner in the TZD initiative, DPS strives to reduce the number of these crashes by reinforcing safe driving behavior through increased enforcement and educational campaigns."
"This year, TZD celebrates its 10th anniversary," Gov. Dayton said. "Since its inception, Minnesota has seen a steady decrease in traffic deaths in almost every year. We Minnesotans owe it to ourselves to work together to keep our roadways safe and reduce traffic deaths to zero."
TZD's progress during the past decade includes:
* A 40 percent decrease in traffic deaths on Minnesota roads. There were 395 deaths in 2012 compared to 655 in 2002.
* A downward trend in the number of fatal and injury crashes. There were 21,321 fatal and injury crashes in 2012 -- down from 24,333 in 2008 and 28,648 in 2004.
* An increase in seat belt usage. Results from DPS' annual observational seat belt use survey show a 94.8 percent seat belt use rate. That compares to a 79.4 percent rate in 2003.
* A decrease in drunk-driving deaths. There were 104 such deaths in 2012, down from 111 in 2011.
For more information, see the TZD website at www.minnesotatzd.org.