Troopers look to crack down on dangerous driving with new campaign

MN state patrol launches summertime operation

MN state patrol launches summertime operation

Minnesota State Patrol is cracking down on dangerous driving behaviors this week with the help of troopers stationed on board an unmarked bus.

The enforcement detail is part of Operation Safe Driver, a campaign taking place across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“It gives us the perspective of seeing down into vehicles,” explained Capt. Jon Olsen of Minnesota State Patrol. “The three key things we are looking for are speed, distraction and lack of seat belt use.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS rode along with State Patrol Wednesday morning as troopers patrolled Interstate 494 from Mendota Heights to Woodbury.

The bus being used for the campaign is typically used to transport prisoners.

Two troopers onboard look for violations through the windows of the bus and then use their police radios to communicate with other troopers in nearby squad cars, who then pull over the offending drivers.

“Throughout the summer here in Minnesota, our fatalities have grown exponentially and that’s very concerning to us,” Olsen said.

Minnesota State Patrol is reporting the deadliest start to summer in a decade on Minnesota roads.

From Memorial Day through July 11, preliminary data shows there have been 67 traffic fatalities statewide.

Speeding is a growing concern, with speed-related deaths up 44% compared to the first half of this decade, according to State Patrol data.

“We’ve definitely had some speeds over 100. We also have a lot of people watching movies or videos on their phone while they’re driving,” Olsen said.

Operation Safe Driver specifically targets commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks.

“A vehicle that weighs 80,000 pounds, just by the law of the physics, has the propensity to create a lot more damage and devastation when involved in a crash,” Olsen said. “And sometimes they’re hauling hazardous materials. For instance, a truck hauling gasoline to the gas stations, we don’t want those vehicles ever being involved in a crash.”

Despite the focus on commercial vehicles, State Patrol officials said they will stop any driver who is breaking the law.

“In the first two days of this enforcement detail, we’ve stopped over 70 vehicles,” Olsen said.

During the same operation last year, police agencies throughout North America pulled over 35,000 drivers and issued more than 26,000 warnings and citations.

“Really what we’re trying to do is impress upon people that when you’re driving, that should be your number one focus and your only focus,” Olsen said.

To learn more about Operation Safe Driver, click here.