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Minnesota to use $788,000 in grants to promote traffic safety

A Plymouth Breeze got wedged underneath a semi-truck and dragged 38 feet about 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 11, 2011, after the driver pulled out of a parking spot on Minnesota Avenue Northwest in Bemidji and attempted to make a U-turn. The driver of the Plymouth apparently did not see the semi-truck and struck the tractor trailer while it was headed south on Minnesota, just south of the intersection with Second Street Northwest. The driver of the Plymouth was not seriously injured, and the driver of the semi di...

MOORHEAD - "Toward Zero Deaths" is the name Minnesota public safety officials are calling their campaign to reduce traffic fatalities.

The campaign got a boost from $788,156 in grants to reduce traffic death in northwest Minnesota, which recorded 588 deaths over the past decade, officials said Monday.

In their campaign to reduce traffic deaths, safety officials are targeting drunken driving, distracted driving, speeding and driving without seat belts.

The 17 northwest Minnesota counties, including Clay, recorded 217 deaths over 10 years caused by drunken driving, and 159 deaths in which victims were not wearing seat belts, figures presented by the state Department of Public Safety show.

Still, the traffic deaths in Minnesota have shown a steady decline over the past decade, a drop of 44 percent, a trend officials want to amplify.

The almost $800,000 in grants will pay for overtime police patrols and local safety coalitions, said Mona Dohman, state public safety commissioner.

"These funds are critical to put a dent in deaths and promote safer driving for all of us," she said in a news conference flanked by state and local law enforcement officers.

Despite progress, traffic deaths this year in Minnesota saw an upswing, with 286 fatalities so far this year, compared to 261 at this time last year.

"This is unacceptable and tragic," Dohman said. "Traffic crashes are preventable."

Ultimately, traffic depends on making responsible decisions, officials said.

"It's our role as bicyclists, drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians to pay attention and be cooperative, not competitive, in traffic," Dohman said.