Minnesota Department of Transportation

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News Release

Oct. 25, 2018

Minnesota recognizes local leaders’ efforts to reduce number of traffic deaths, serious injuries

Statewide Toward Zero Deaths program has helped to reduce fatalities on Minnesota roads by 3 percent since 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ten individuals and organizations were recognized by the Minnesota departments of health, public safety and transportation at the statewide Toward Zero Deaths conference for their efforts to reduce the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries in the state. Road fatalities have decreased by 45 percent since the program began in 2003.

About 1,000 traffic safety professionals attended this year’s TZD conference Oct. 23-24 in Mankato.

“TZD is a tremendous asset to the state in reducing traffic deaths,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “The individuals and organizations honored this year for their work are making a difference to save lives and reduce serious injuries on our roadways.”
The awards are given annually to individuals and organizations in Minnesota that show excellence in TZD’s emphasis areas of enforcement, emergency medical and trauma services, education, engineering, child passenger safety and judicial/court systems. They have shown their leadership and creative capacities to improve traffic safety throughout the state and build partnerships.     

“Some people may think that aiming for zero deaths on Minnesota roads is not a reasonable goal, but we’re making progress,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “I’m proud of our statewide traffic safety partners and TZD award winners for seeing that vision and working every day to turn it into reality. Minnesotans are listening and increasingly making safe choices on the road.”

“Crashes are a leading cause of injury and death in Minnesota, and as with other public health concerns the best solutions require cooperation across sectors,” said Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “I continue to be impressed with what we can accomplish when we work together to prevent crashes and improve health outcomes for those who are injured.”

Mark Peterson, current public affairs specialist for AAA who worked for the Minnesota State Patrol for 25 years, received the Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award. He received TZD’s top honor for his exceptional leadership to improve traffic safety in Minnesota, build partnerships and mentor others in the field.
Twin Cities Metro area award winners are:

  • Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award – Mark Peterson, Hopkins
  • Child Passenger Safety Star Award – Karri Hendrickson, Maple Grove
  • Distinguished Public Leadership Award – Lisa Kons, Cottage Grove
  • Enforcement Star Award – Kevin Otto, Maplewood

Greater Minnesota award winners are:

  • Emergency and Trauma Services Star Award – Amy Saylor, Hill City
  • Engineering Star Award – Richard Sanders, Crookston
  • Judicial and Court System Star Award – Abby Kuschel, Grand Rapids
  • Education Award – Jeff Strom, Albert Lea
  • Traffic Innovation Award – Bemidji Area Schools
  • Special Award of Recognition – Emily Steffens, Dodge Center

Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award

  • Mark Peterson, Hopkins, current public affairs specialist for AAA, worked for the Minnesota State Patrol for 25 years as a patrolman, field supervisor and training academy director. He helped develop programs to remove drug impaired drivers from the roadways and to address excessive speed. He served as director of education and federal projects, developing educational initiatives for troopers, schools, driver education classes and media outlets. He helped secure millions of dollars in federal traffic safety grants to support law enforcement agencies. At AAA, Peterson organizes trainings and workshops to address the issue of drug impaired driving and helps implement programs for teens and seniors.

Child Passenger Safety Star Award

  • Karri Hendrickson, Maple Grove, became a child passenger safety technician to keep kids safe. She’s a nurse who’s seen the tragic results from an improperly installed car seat. She volunteers at various car seat education events at hospitals and public events to teach people about the benefits of the proper fit and use of a car seat.

Distinguished Public Leadership

  • Lisa Kons, Cottage Grove, is the traffic programs manager for the Minnesota Safety Council. She’s worked for 25 years to develop and implement traffic safety programming. She’s worked with hundreds of Minnesota employers to educate thousands of employees on topics such as distracted driving, impaired driving, fatigued driving and seat belt safety. She’s helped employers write and strengthen their traffic safety policies. Kons is the state coordinator for the Minnesota Network of Employers for Traffic Safety and has served on many traffic safety strategic planning and advisory committees

Education Star Award

  • Jeff Strom, Albert Lea, is active in the Freeborn County Safe Roads coalition. He conducts quarterly fatal reviews and prepares all crash files for review. He participates in traffic safety events at area schools and organizes mock crashes and impact speakers for the community. He volunteers to teach most of the parent component of driver’s education. He also helps coordinate monthly child passenger safety clinics. Strom has participated in TZD enforcement and education for more than 11 years.

Emergency and Trauma Services Star Award

  • Amy Saylor, Hill City, has worked with emergency medical service communities throughout the state to advance emergency, medical and trauma services. She oversees two health bases that provide air medical services throughout the Midwest.

Enforcement Star Award

  • Kevin Otto, Maplewood, is one of the founding members of the Ramsey County Traffic Safety Initiative, which is a collaboration of 10 law enforcement agencies in Ramsey county. He’s been a supporter of TZD for the past 15 years and has presented at many TZD conferences on the topic of traffic safety and enforcement. Otto builds partnerships among law enforcement and mentors young officers to show them how to become better traffic enforcement officers.

Engineering Star Award

  • Richard Sanders, Polk County Engineer, is a founding member of the Polk County Toward Zero Deaths Coalition. He has a long-standing history of dedication and commitment to the TZD focus areas and advocates on local and state levels for a safe and reliable county transportation infrastructure. Sanders was the first person to advocate that communities who request road closures for community events serving alcohol to think about the TZD mission and to ensure people arrive home safely.

Judicial and Court System Star Award

  • Abby Kuschel, Grand Rapids, is the state treatment court coordinator for the Minnesota Judicial Branch. She provides statewide program support, technical assistance and information to district and state courts about court procedures for cases involving alcohol and other drug addicted offenders, offenders with mental health issues and offenders who are veterans.

Special Award of Recognition

  • Emily Steffens, Dodge Center, began writing a newspaper column called “It’s My Life. Living with Severe Traumatic Brain Injury.” Steffens was injured in a car crash that left her in a coma for three months. She is paralyzed on the right side of her body, partially blind and suffers from significant memory issues. Steffens shares her life and its challenges through the newspaper column and uses it as a way to educate the community on the importance of seat belt use.

Traffic Safety Innovation Award

  • The Bemidji Area Schools sponsors a “Flashing Light” project designed to alert school bus drivers to the presence of students waiting to be picked up. The district first purchased 200 blinking lights to be used at student bus stops along high-speed, high-volume roadways and currently there are 3,000 lights being used by students.

The Minnesota TZD program is an interdisciplinary partnership with the state departments of health, transportation and public safety. This collaboration began 15 years ago  to reduce roadway fatalitie, and during this time there has been a 45 percent decrease in traffic deaths.

Learn more about TZD, including a full list of award recipients, at www.minnesotatzd.org.