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Kandiyohi County praised for driver safety enforcement

WILLMAR — An eagerness to embrace and enforce a road-safety campaign has earned the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office praise and a new piece of equipment from the state’s “Toward Zero Death” program.

Tom Kummrow, the Toward Zero Deaths enforcement liaison with the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, said Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog and his team of law enforcement officers have a good history of using grant dollars to operate high-visibility programs, such as targeting impaired, speeding or unbuckled drivers.

But he said the county has also used its own initiative, time and officers on its own and “not just when they’re on the state dollar.”

Kummrow said some sheriffs shy away from that kind of proactive enforcement out of fear of not being re-elected.

“Thank you for allowing law enforcement to happen in Kandiyohi County,” said Kummrow, who nominated Kandiyohi County for the award. “It doesn’t happen in every county.”

During a presentation this week to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, Kummrow said Kandiyohi County has made a commitment to using methods to educate people about safe driving practices that can decrease injury accidents and fatalities.

“It’s on the front burner here,” said Kummrow, who presented Hartog with a sleek, new speed radar gun that’s valued at about $3,000.

He also praised Hartog for using state grants to team up with law enforcement in Swift County for the Toward Zero Deaths projects.

Kummrow said eventually they may be a blurring of lines between counties and municipal law enforcement agencies in an effort to continue to send a message about the importance of safe-driving practices.

He said a new educational and enforcement practice that some communities are starting to use includes posting large signs alerting drivers that they are entering a seat belt enforcement zone. The signs, and stops for violators, can be a big promotional tool, said Kummrow.

Kummrow said the Toward Zero Deaths initiative has been effective in lowering the overall number of fatal car crashes in Minnesota, but he said there are still too many.

Kandiyohi County averages about five fatal car crashes each year. Last year there were 11.

Of the 25 fatal crashes in the last five years, six of them were alcohol-related — which is below the state average — and four were unbelted, which is also below the state average, said Kummrow.

On another law enforcement issue, Hartog said the state’s Department of Corrections is once again experiencing over-crowding in its facilities and is looking to house some prisoners in the Kandiyohi County Jail.

A one-year contract, which the state capped at $50,000, was approved on Tuesday.

Hartog said the county will be able to accommodate that limited number of state prisoners without hiring additional staff and without opening up a closed pod in the jail.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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