TZD seat belt initiative begins next weekWORTHINGTON — If the hope of living through a horrific car crash isn’t enough to make a person habitually buckle their seat belt, maybe the prospect of avoiding a ticket and fine will do the trick.
WORTHINGTON — If the hope of living through a horrific car crash isn’t enough to make a person habitually buckle their seat belt, maybe the prospect of avoiding a ticket and fine will do the trick.
Beginning May 23, the latest seatbelt campaign through Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) will shift into gear, putting more peace officers on the road in an effort to save lives.
Worthington Police Officer Josh McCuen is the TZD Coordinator in the area, and has been for a little over a year.
This year, the region was granted $92,000 through TZD to add officers during enforcement campaigns. It’s McCuen’s job to disperse that $92,000 between eight agencies — Nobles, Rock, Jackson, Cottonwood, Lyon and Redwood County Sheriff’s Offices and Mountain Lake, Marshall and Worthington Police Departments. Next year, he said, he hopes to add the Redwood Police Department and Murray County Sheriff’s Office.
The money will be spent on extra patrol hours in those departments during the summer wave of TZD campaigns for seat belt, speed and driving while impaired. July is speed month, and a DWI campaign will take place around Labor Day. But first comes the seat belt campaign.
“We want people to wear their seat belts for safety reasons,” McCuen explained.
Sometimes, it takes the threat of a ticket to get people to buckle up.
During the seat belt campaign, McCuen wants squad cars to be very visible as a reminder that wearing a seatbelt is the law.
In Worthington, motorists and passengers are doing relatively well in the seatbelt department.
During a regularly scheduled compliance check, in which an officer sits in a prescribed area and tallies the number of belted versus unbelted people, 91 percent of the population had buckled their belt.
“That is actually pretty good,” McCuen admitted.
According to the 2010 edition of Minnesota Crash Facts, seat belt use in Minnesota is at 92 percent. In 2005, that number was at 84 percent — a record high at the time. Back in 1986, only 20 percent of motorists and passengers were wearing seat belts.
The TZD program was launched as a deliberate approach to traffic safety when state officials noted the number of traffic fatalities was on the rise.
Since the program began, Minnesota’s traffic fatality rates have decreased by more than 35 percent. The program uses “the 4 Es” as an approach to traffic safety —Education, Enforcement, Engineering and Emergency medical and trauma services. TZD has played a major role in the passage of traffic safety legislation, and continues to do so. TZD met its 2008 goal of fewer than 500 crash fatalities two years ahead of schedule, but, not content to rest on that success, set a new goal of fewer than 350 fatalities by 2014.
To reach that goal, more speed waves are being planned for next year, and during the July campaign plans to have extra patrols on the I-90 corridor from Rock County to the Wisconsin border, all during the same day and shift.
McCuen said he has no problem finding officers willing to cover the extra shifts funded by the grant. He likes to participate in the shifts himself.
“I’m a traffic guy,” he admitted. “I like to go out and be a part of it. Anything you can do, like the I-90 thing in July, is important. Being part of that will be a great experience.”