The leading causes of deaths and serious injuries in East Central Minnesota include lack of seat belt use, impaired driving, speed, aggressive driving and inattentive driving.

And the Isanti County Toward Zero Deaths coalition is trying to change that.

On Oct. 16 and Oct. 17, Sarah Motl, community services supervisor with Isanti County Public Health, updated the Cambridge and Isanti city councils on the background, accomplishments and goals of the statewide, East Central Minnesota and Isanti County TZD coalition. Motl thanked both the cities of Cambridge and Isanti for their participation in the Isanti County TZD program.

Motl explained TZD is the state’s cornerstone traffic safety program that employs an interdisciplinary approach to reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths on Minnesota roads. The program’s vision is to reduce fatalities and serious injuries to zero. The TZD statewide goal is fewer than 300 fatalities and 850 serious injuries on Minnesota roads by 2020.

The statewide TZD program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Transportation and Health; the University of Minnesota; and other local stakeholders.

Key accomplishments of the statewide TZD program include:

• A 42% reduction in the number of traffic deaths since TZD was launched in 2003.

• A statewide seat belt use rate of 92%.

• Passage of stronger traffic safety policies related to seat belt use, texting while driving, ignition interlock, graduated driving licensing, impaired driving and speeding in work zones.

• Eight regional partnerships statewide that collaborate and build local relationships to implement TZD.

• A statewide trauma system enabling 99% of Minnesotans to reach a trauma hospital within 60 minutes.

• Implementation of low-cost high-benefit strategies for intersection and lane-departure crashes on state and local roads.

• More than 900 statewide conference participants annually.

Motl explained Isanti County TZD has been in existence for 15 years and was previously administered through the East Central Regional Development Commission before Isanti County Public Health became the fiscal host in 2017. As a region, the East Central Minnesota TZD program has been in existence for seven years and includes the counties of Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Laces, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright.

TZD works to create a culture in which traffic deaths and serious injures are no longer acceptable through the integrated application of education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency and medical trauma services. The program also uses data to target areas for improvement, employ proven countermeasures, implement best practices and advance innovations and new technologies.

Motl explained the Isanti County TZD coalition holds bimonthly meetings to go over statistics and talk about what’s been happening in the county, and a fatality and serious injury review committee meets quarterly to look over all the fatal and serious injury crashes.

She also mentioned the coalition helps coordinate mock crash demonstrations and guest speakers within the local schools, helps coordinate and publicize traffic safety campaigns and provides ongoing education and awareness through presentations in the schools, on the radio and various community events.

Motl explained the goal of the regional TZD is to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. She noted the past five year averages, from 2014-2018, show there have been 72 fatalities and 216 serious injuries.

Motl reminded council members the Isanti County Safe Ride program offers rides home through the local taxi company to patrons of participating bars and restaurants Thursday through Saturday nights by calling 763-552-TAXI (8294). The service is free to the patron for rides up to $10; for rides exceeding that amount, the patron is responsible for the difference.

Another objective of the regional TZD is to increase seat belt use rates. Motl explained the statewide average was 92.4% in 2018, while the regional seat belt rate 87.7% in April 2018.

“Our county isn’t too bad for seat belts, but for the region we are lower than the state average,” Motl said.

“Thank you for taking this on,” Cambridge Mayor Jim Godfrey said. “It’s clear it works.”

“I’m blown away by what you guys have accomplished in the last 15-plus years, that’s amazing,” Cambridge City Council Member Lisa Iverson added.

Isanti Mayor Jeff Johnson said he fully supports the Isanti County TZD coalition.

“My question is, is how do we get the city of Isanti (involved). If you needed or we needed to get involved or you needed something, I would be on board to definitely jump in to help with something your program needs,” Johnson said. “I’m all for this Toward Zero Deaths coalition.”

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