WORTHINGTON - The upcoming holiday season means an increase in traffic on Minnesota roadways.

In an effort to reduce the number of impaired drivers, beginning today through Dec. 30, area law enforcement agencies will sporadically provide extra enforcement to move Toward Zero Death (TZD).

A statewide initiative, the TZD campaign provides federal funds to law enforcement agencies across the state to address all traffic issues with an emphasis on impaired driving, occupant protection, speed and distracted driving.

According to Worthington Police Department Sgt. Brett Wiltrout, speed, impairment and distraction are the driving behaviors most commonly attributed to fatal and serious crashes in Nobles County.

The WPD serves as the immediate area’s lead agency and distributes grant funds to sheriff’s offices in Nobles, Cottonwood, Rock, Pipestone, Redwood and Lyon counties. The WPD also distributes funds to Mountain Lake and Lower Sioux police departments.

During the TZD law enforcement period between Nov. 25 and Dec. 30, 2016, 22 officers from those area agencies provided more than 180 additional hours that resulted in 204 traffic stops, 36 citations, 10 arrests and five DWIs.

The extra enforcement periods, which are determined by the TZD campaign, are likely chosen based on crash facts and statistics, Wiltrout said.  

“There tends to be an increase around the holiday,” Wiltrout said of impaired driving and resulting crashes.  

According to the most recent available DWI incident data from the Office of Traffic Safety, a total of 402 DWI incidents were reported from 2013 to 2015 in Nobles County. DWI incidents from the same timeline include 168 in Cottonwood County; 155 in Rock County; 145 in Jackson County; 122 in Pipestone County; and 51 in Murray County.

Driving sober or finding a sober ride is not the only way to take precaution during holiday travel.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends that motorists always be prepared for inclement weather and check road conditions. Motorists can receive up-to-date travel information by dialing 511, downloading the free 511 app or visiting www.511mn.org.

As for the WPD, officers will not only be working additional hours to crack down on impaired driving this holiday season, but will also host and be on hand to answer questions during a Dec. 1 Coffee with a Cop event. From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Serenity Gifts (1132 Oxford Street) in Worthington, community members and officers will be able to discuss community issues and become better acquainted during the informal event.

“It bridges the gap between the public and police, breaks barriers and builds relationships,” Wiltrout said.

In a press release, Worthington Police Chief Troy Appel said he hopes that community members will feel comfortable to address questions and concerns or come to meet the department’s officers.

“These interactions are the foundation of community partnerships,” Appel said.

A national event that the WPD has hosted before, Wiltrout said the department plans to host Coffee with a Cop on a monthly basis through at least April 2018.

For more information, contact Wiltrout at 295-5400.