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Eden Prairie, which had a 6 percent year-to-year reduction in death and injury crashes, uses Facebook, Twitter and a city blog to promote targeted enforcement efforts launched every two weeks, said Sgt. Tom Lowery, head of an enforcement unit with four full-time members. It also often teams up with the State Patrol and neighboring cities for crackdowns on seat belt use, speeding and impaired or distracted driving, he said. Eden Prairie drivers seem to be listening: 92 percent wear belts, Lowery said.
Woodbury, with a 5.7 percent year-to-year crash rate reduction, best in the east metro, also partners with other cities and joins in the state’s Toward Zero Death programs, said Officer Scott Melander. His full-time enforcement work includes writing tickets and teaching in elementary and high schools.
Improvement not universal
Twenty-three of the 37 cities in the DPS data showed average annual reductions in fatal and injury crashes. Minneapolis had a 1 percent annual decline over the four years.
Fourteen other cities had average yearly increases in serious crashes. They ranged from St. Paul, with a barely higher rate, to Apple Valley, where the number rose from 154 in 2008 to 180 last year, with rises and falls along the way.
Apple Valley Police Capt. Michael Marben said a variety of factors may have been at play. There was a major reconstruction in the past two years on Cedar Avenue S. for the Bus Rapid Transit system, work that detoured motorists to slower-moving side streets, he noted.
In addition, the city has had 48 officers since 2010, two fewer than before, he said. He also noted that traffic citations fell since 2008 by almost 1,700 tickets, to 7,891 in 2012. Still, two Apple Valley officers spend most of their time enforcing traffic rules, and the city joins periodic crackdowns with other Dakota County cities, Marben noted.
The city of 50,000 also has thousands of residents driving to work in other cities each day. Recent U.S. census data put the number at about 13,000, second-highest in the metro area, behind only neighboring Lakeville, at 15,000. Yet, Lakeville, population 57,300, had a 3.6 percent drop in average annual crashes since 2008.
Bowie of the DPS said there are too many local variables for analysts to discern why some cities have fewer fatal and injury crashes and others have more.
“But what we do know is that unsafe driver behavior is the primary reason for crashes, and when drivers make safe, smart decisions, crashes and resulting tragedies can be prevented,” Bowie said. “The leading crash factors each year are distractions, failure to yield and unsafe speeds.”
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658