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Traffic experts, state leaders prioritize safety on roads at conference

Updated: October 23, 2019 06:01 AM

Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz will meet with about a thousand traffic experts pushing for greater safety on Minnesota's roads.

Their goal is "zero deaths" and they say there's a lot more that can be done.

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During the two-day conference, experts and state leaders will take a closer look at traffic laws currently in effect in Minnesota, whether those laws are working, and whether there are any new approaches that could be helpful.

Toward Zero Deaths is an initiative that started in 2003. Since then, state officials said they've changed laws, designed safer roads and worked to educate drivers about risky behaviors.

Since the initiative began, traffic deaths have dropped more than 40 percent.

One of the big changes this year was the new hands-free cellphone law which went into effect in August.

New hands-free law now in effect

Minnesota State Patrol reports 2,115 'hands-free law' violations

Those with the Minnesota State Patrol say drivers appear to be taking it seriously, so far.

"I've been seeing a lot more of the cellphone holders up," Trooper Sam Mielke said. "You definitely can tell, too, when you go by vehicles, you'll see them talking so you know they have their Bluetooth or they have it connected to their phone and they're not holding their phone at all." 

State officials say they still want people to be aware of the major factors leading to deaths on Minnesota roads every year, including speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, drunk driving and distracted driving.

Wednesday, the conference will kick off by focusing on the hands-free law.

Thursday, officials will take a closer look at teens behind the wheel—including hearing from a father who lost his daughter in a crash—as well as considering the extra steps that can be taken to keep young people safe.

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