UMPD partners with MPD to reduce traffic deaths

The Toward Zero Deaths program aims to combat traffic-related dangers.

Madeline Deninger

The University of Minnesota Police Department is working with the Minneapolis Police Department to reduce traffic deaths in the city. 

UMPD, MPD and other state police departments will combat drunk driving and other dangers through the Toward Zero Deaths traffic enforcement program.  

A roughly $290,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety was approved by the City’s Ways and Means Committee on Monday to continue MPD’s partnership with the program. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the grant money comes from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

MPD has been involved with the program since 2013 and is the lead agency on the grant. The funds will be divided between MPD, UMPD and other state departments. 

“The smaller departments use it for the same kind of efforts [as the Minneapolis Police]: to try and target some of the behaviors that produce unsafe driving conditions, drunk driving and distracted driving,” said Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson.

The program seeks to target traffic risks like impaired and distracted driving, seat belt enforcement and pedestrian safety through staffing of off-duty officers from participating departments. 

UMPD Lieutenant Chuck Miner said the program has been helpful during campus events that are potentially risky for dangerous driving, such as homecoming and sporting events. 

“We’ve done it in past years. It’s kind of a ‘you’ll help us, we’ll help you’ situation. We’ll send out officers to their events and they’ll come to ours,” Miner said. 

The grant will be part of the MPD’s 2017 budget effective Oct. 1 and will last until Sept. 30, 2018. This year’s grant is an increase from last year’s $258,300.

“The amounts differ from year to year because the number of agencies within that grant changes,” said Scott Wasserman, Minnesota Department of Public Safety public information officer.

Johnson believes the program is a step toward combating drunk driving. 

“I do think that if you look [at] the efforts that have been done for reducing drunk driving, it’s helpful, but it’s still a huge problem,” she said.