The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced its 2012 construction program, which will include 316 economy-boosting projects in the Metro and in Greater Minnesota. This year's state highway construction projects include work on the Interstate I-694/Highway 10 interchange in the Twin Cities and completion of construction on I-35 in Duluth. Other projects will improve safety at railroad crossings, repair weather-damaged seawalls and docks, and repair runways and terminals at regional airports.
“MnDOT is focused on improving our highways and maximizing the capacity of the system,” said Commissioner Tom Sorel. “Our transportation system is vital to the state’s economy and to its citizens’ quality of life. We want to ensure that it provides a safe and efficient trip for all users.”
A new study by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shows 68 lives and over 300 injuries have been avoided in Minnesota thanks to the state’s 2009 Primary Seat Belt Law. Under the primary seat belt law, officers can ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt without any other law being broken. Since the law went into effect, observed seatbelt use in the state has risen from 87 percent in 2008 to 93 percent in 2011.
“The findings of this study remind us again how vital it is for Minnesotans to buckle up — every seat, every ride,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. Seatbelt use reduces the risk of fatal injury in a passenger automobile by 45 percent. Unbuckled motorists are six times more likely to be injured in an accident than motorists wearing seat belts. Minnesotans that are least likely to buckle up and more likely to die in crashes are young drivers. This group represents only 24 percent of licensed drivers in Minnesota, yet they account for half of serious unbelted injuries.
The study by the Department of Public Safety showed 70 percent of Minnesota motorists are in favor of the Primary Seatbelt Law, up from 62 percent just before the law was passed. As more motorists use seatbelts, the drop in injuries is also saving the state money. $45 million in hospital bills have been avoided thanks to motorists using their seatbelts.
“As Minnesota continues its efforts to move roadway deaths towards zero, this research shows that seat belts are a critical tool in that effort,” said MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel. It’s important that every Minnesota motorist remembers to use a seatbelt. Buckling is the easiest, least expensive way to help lower traffic deaths in Minnesota.
In 2010, Minnesotans lost almost 8,400 cars to auto theft, totaling more than $21.3 million in stolen assets. This week Commissioner Mike Rothman and the Department of Commerce unveiled Minnesota’s plan to combat this problem by granting metro area law enforcement with $3.8 million towards new theft-prevention technology.
This extension of the Minnesota's Auto Theft Prevention Grant Program will provide metro police departments with new “bait cars” equipped with hidden cameras and audio recording to help police officers catch criminals in the act. "There are audio recordings of them in the act of doing it, along with a video recording," Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren said. "Then you can actually shut the vehicle down and apprehend them while they're still in the vehicle, and provide all of that information to our jurors and to our prosecution to hold people accountable.”
Part of the new funding will also go towards purchasing new high-tech cameras, designed to photograph license plate numbers each time a car passes and run the number through several databases. This system will help law enforcement officials recognize not only stolen vehicles but also those operated by drivers with outstanding warrants and suspended licenses.