Dangerous driving habits continue to be a major problem on Minnesota roads, much to the frustration of law enforcement throughout the state. The bottom line is that distracted driving is dangerous. Preliminary figures show distracted driving contributed to an average of 29 deaths and 146 life-changing injuries a year from 2019 to 2023.​

Unfortunately, things are not getting better this year. During the April 2024 distracted driving enforcement campaign, law enforcement officers issued 5,380 citations for violations of Minnesota's hands-free cell phone law, nearly 2,000 more than last year's campaign.

Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety (OTC) Director Mike Hanson says that the terrible and selfish decisions made by drivers are directly leading to fatalities, so it only makes sense that they will continue trying new and creative ways to stop that horrific trend.

A Higher Vantage Point Provides Law Enforcement An Advantage

Recently, the OTC announced it had awarded a total of $912,000 to law enforcement agencies to purchase 13 specialized pickup trucks that will allow officers to conduct traffic enforcement from a higher vantage point.

The OTC says that giving officers a higher vantage allows them to better see if drivers are distracted, not wearing their seat belts, or engaging in other dangerous driving behaviors.

OTS Director Hanson acknowledges that these 13 trucks are not going to be the entire answer, but he believes this tool will help the departments who will be getting them raise awareness of the critical traffic safety issues and hopefully help change driver's behavior.

Minnesota Office Of Traffic Safety/Canva
Minnesota Office Of Traffic Safety/Canva

The 13 traffic safety vehicle grant recipients include:

  1. Bemidji Police Department
  2. Blaine Police Department
  3. Brooklyn Park Police Department
  4. Carver County Sheriff's Office
  5. Duluth Police Department
  6. Eagan Police Department
  7. Elk River Police Department
  8. Grand Rapids Police Department
  9. Mankato Department of Public Safety Police
  10. Olmsted County Sheriff's Office
  11. Orono Police Department
  12. St. Paul Police Department
  13. Washington County Sheriff's Office
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“The higher vantage point of the traffic safety vehicle will help us see distractions, unbelted passengers, and child restraint issues and intervene before something terrible happens", said Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson.

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The grantees will work with other law enforcement agencies in their areas to make sure the vehicles are used to best serve Minnesotans. Recipients will also use the new vehicles to educate the public on safe driving through community engagement events at local schools, public health agencies, and businesses.

Best Looking State Patrol Cars In (Almost) Every State

For the past 10 years, the American Association of State Troopers has held a contest to determine which state has the best looking patrol cruiser. Nearly every state police agency submits their best photo of their sharpest patrol vehicle a chance to win the coveted cover photo on the association's annual calendar. From cop cars rushing through blizzards to vehicles on the Grand Ole Opry stage, here are this year's nominees.

Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

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