State Patrol to roam in full force

Every sworn officer, even the chief, will patrol Thursday on what has been the year's deadliest day on state roads over the past decade.

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The Minnesota State Patrol.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The State Patrol is putting all of its troopers on the road Thursday as part of a special enforcement effort it is dubbing Maroon Day.

Maroon, of course, is the patrol's dominant squad-car color, and June 30, it was revealed Wednesday, has been the deadliest day of the year on state roads, with 35 fatalities reported in 30 crashes since 2000, the patrol said.

Lt. Eric Roeske said a key factor in fatalities that day has been that traffic increases in the run-up to July 4th.

The patrol plans to assign about 590 troopers, from its newest recruits to its chief, Col. Kevin Daly, to patrol "throughout the state and throughout the day," Roeske said.

The enforcement campaign is not new. At times, Roeske said, troopers in individual patrol districts, including Virginia, Minn., have coordinated local Maroon Day operations. But the patrol hasn't mobilized a statewide effort since June 16, 2006, said Kara Owens, a state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.

Sending out troopers in large maroon waves is not meant to be a ticket-writing exercise, Roeske said. The patrol hopes motorists take note of the increased presence to buckle up, stay alert, drive at safe speeds, and not drink and drive, he said.

"Our goal is compliance," Roeske said.

Thus far this year, Minnesota has reported 130 traffic deaths, compared with 166 at the same point in 2010. High fuel prices and lousy weather have contributed to the decline, Roeske said. But the summer months typically are the deadliest, officials say.

Still, the state is on pace to see road deaths fall from 411 in 2010 to 375 in 2011, according to recent projections. That would mark a fourth consecutive annual drop in fatalities.

Last week, Roeske and Owens filmed a YouTube video explaining Maroon Day. To see it, go to www.startribune.com/a520.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

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