It's not every day you see county sheriff deputies patrolling a highway outside their jurisdiction. Add the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota State Patrol into the mix and you have an even rarer partnership. But it's exactly what happened when a Southwestern Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) enforcement effort brought these groups together in an innovative approach to improving highway safety.
"When a cooperative law enforcement effort between agencies works toward the same goal of making roadways safer, everyone benefits," says Minnesota State Patrol Lieutenant Brian West.
The idea behind the project was simple. Traffic violations occurring in one county can lead to dangerous driving, crashes, and even motorist fatalities in a neighboring county if left undetected. Catching these violations early can prevent unsafe driving—and potentially save lives.
To thwart cross-county traffic violations, the Minnesota State Patrol teamed up with the Kandiyohi and Chippewa County sheriff departments. The group decided to target a 10-mile stretch of Minnesota Highway 23 (MN 23) for five miles on either side of the Kandiyohi-Chippewa County Line. They selected the week-long enforcement period of November 16–23, 2008.
During the enforcement week, Kandiyohi sheriff deputies patrolled the stretch of MN 23 in Chippewa County, and Chippewa County deputies patrolled MN 23 in Kandiyohi County. State troopers from the Marshall and St. Cloud districts patrolled the entire 10-mile stretch of highway.
"Our deputies enjoyed having the opportunity to be part of a project to enforce traffic laws outside of the county," says Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog. "This ultimately contributed to safer roads in Kandiyohi County."
The purpose of the partnership wasn't simply enforcement; the group also emphasized education. MnDOT placed changeable message signs at the beginning of the enforcement zone, helping to increase motorists' knowledge of the Toward Zero Deaths program. Press releases and local media coverage provided additional publicity.
In the end, the Toward Zero Deaths enforcement was a success. The deputies and troopers spent 83 hours patrolling the enforcement zone throughout the week—writing 30 speed warnings, 7 speeding tickets and 4 seat belt citations. They also pulled over more than 100 other vehicles for additional traffic violations.
By working together, these partners believe they've helped raise public awareness of TZD’s mission—reducing crashes and deaths on Minnesota’s roadways through education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency response.