Building off of the successes of the Minnesota Highway 23 Crash Reduction Project, the Toward Zero Deaths Stearns & Benton Coalition has started a similar campaign on another major corridor – Highway 15.
“Project 15: This is You” is a campaign designed to promote traffic safety from the intersection of Highway 15 and U.S. 10 in Benton County to the southern Stearns County border south of Kimball.
“It is our intent that, through education and enforcement, we can get people to slow down and pay attention,” said Stearns County Lt. Kellan Hemmesch.
Partnering with local law enforcement agencies – including St. Cloud, Sartell, and Sauk Rapids police departments; the Benton County Sheriff’s Office; and the Minnesota State Patrol – -Hemmesch said the community should expect to see increased traffic enforcement targeting speeders, red-light runners, and inattentive and aggressive drivers.
Aggressive driving, according to Hemmesch, is one of the most common behaviors the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office has noticed on Highway 15, especially when the roadway condenses from four lanes to two lanes south of Interstate 94 as drivers speed up to get ahead of the pack.
“Our goal with Project 15 is to reduce the number of crashes and injuries on our roadways and make our roadways safer for everyone,” Hemmesch said.
In addition, Hemmesch hopes the extraordinary enforcement on Highway 15 will help remove Stearns County from the top 10 list of deadliest Minnesota counties related to alcohol impairment crashes.
Between 2016 and 2019 there were more than 1,000 crashes reported, resulting in four deaths and more than 300 injuries in the Project 15 area, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
Signs related to this project are expected to be installed along the corridor. TZD Stearns & Benton Coalition is also working with local partners to develop an education campaign to alert the community to the project.
Hemmesch reminds drivers to obey the traffic laws, remove distractions, pay attention, and to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the roadway.
“As a law enforcement agency, we can do a significant amount of enforcement and feel like we are being successful. But when a fatality happens on our roadways, it’s tragic. As law enforcement, it continues to give us the energy to get back out and do everything we can to keep the traveling public safe,” Hemmesch said.
About Toward Zero Deaths
The Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) effort was created in 2003 as a way to employ an interdisciplinary approach to reducing traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths on Minnesota roads. TZD is based on the belief that even one traffic-related death on our roads is unacceptable. TZD targets areas for improvement and employs proven countermeasures, integrating application of education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services.