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State of Minnesota awards traffic safety vehicle grants to nine law enforcement agencies

Specialized pickup trucks to help stop dangerous driving behaviors

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is awarding $642,325 in grants to nine law enforcement agencies for new traffic safety vehicles. The grants will allow each agency to buy a specialized pickup truck law enforcement officers can use to conduct traffic enforcement from a higher vantage point. It will allow them a better view to see if drivers are distracted, not wearing their seat belt or engaging in other dangerous driving behaviors.

“We need to get creative in how we’re combating the unacceptable driving behaviors and rising deaths we’re seeing on our roads,” said OTS Director Mike Hanson. “People are dying because drivers are selfishly making terrible choices. These trucks are not going to be the entire answer, but this tool will help our law enforcement partners raise the awareness of these critical traffic safety issues and help change behavior — and we’ll take any help we can get.”

Traffic safety vehicle grant recipients:

• Orono Police Department

• St. Paul Police Department

• Blaine Police Department

• Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office

• Eagan Police Department

• Grand Rapids Police Department

• Brooklyn Park Police Department

• Washington County Sheriff’s Office

• Elk River Police Department

“When we respond to a crash, we see far too often how a dangerous choice can take a life or seriously hurt the people involved. By then, it’s too late,” said Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson. “The higher vantage point of the traffic safety vehicle will help us see distractions, unbelted passengers and child restraint issues and intervene before something terrible happens.”

The grantees plan to collaborate with other local enforcement in their areas during high-visibility enforcement campaigns to maximize the vehicle’s use. Recipients will also use the new vehicles to educate the public on safe driving through community engagement events at local schools, public health agencies and businesses.

OTS received the funding for this project from the 2023 Minnesota Transportation Omnibus bill. Each agency was required to match 20 percent of the total equipment costs in order to demonstrate a vested interest and commitment to the program.

Traffic fatalities:

Preliminary numbers show traffic fatalities are up more than 61 percent on Minnesota roads (Jan. 1-April 10) compared to the same time last year.

• 2024: 84 fatalities

• 2023: 52 fatalities

Distracted driving:

Law enforcement agencies are participating in the statewide distracted driving extra enforcement and awareness campaign through April 30.

• Distracted driving contributed to nearly 30,000 crashes in Minnesota from 2019-2023 (preliminary figures).

• Distracted driving contributed to an average of 29 deaths and 146 life-changing injuries a year in Minnesota from 2019-2023.

Visit HandsFreeMN.org and DriveSmartMN.org for more statistics and safe driving information.

About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the Office of Traffic Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. These efforts form a strong foundation for the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program, child seats for needy families program and school bus stop arm camera project.

 

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