OTS vehicle grants will help stop dangerous driving behaviors

May 30, 2024

 Example of a police pickup truck for traffic enforcement Richfield Police Department has purchased a specialized pickup truck to help with traffic enforcement. A new Office of Traffic Safety grant program will allow other agencies to do the same.

As dangerous driving habits continue to be a major problem on Minnesota roads, our Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is getting creative to help our law enforcement partners change those behaviors before they lead to a crash.

OTS has awarded a total of $912,000 to law enforcement agencies to purchase 13 specialized pickup trucks, which will allow officers to conduct traffic enforcement from a higher vantage point. It will allow them a better view to see if drivers are distracted, not wearing their seat belt or engaging in other dangerous driving behaviors.

“People are dying because drivers are selfishly making terrible choices," OTS Director Mike Hanson. “These trucks are not going to be the entire answer, but this tool will help our law enforcement partners raise the awareness of these critical traffic safety issues and help change behavior — and we'll take any help we can get."

Distracted driving is dangerous. Preliminary figures show distracted driving contributed to an average of 29 deaths and 146 life-changing injuries a year from 2019 to 2023.​

It continues to be a problem across the state. During the April 2024 distracted driving enforcement campaign, law enforcement officers issued 5,380 citations for violations of Minnesota's hands-free cell phone law — nearly 2,000 more than during last year's campaign.

Traffic safety vehicle grant recipients include:

  • Bemidji Police Department
  • Blaine Police Department
  • Brooklyn Park Police Department
  • Carver County Sheriff's Office
  • Duluth Police Department
  • Eagan Police Department
  • Elk River Police Department
  • Grand Rapids Police Department
  • Mankato Department of Public Safety Police
  • Olmsted County Sheriff's Office
  • Orono Police Department
  • St. Paul Police Department
  • Washington County Sheriff's Office

The additional visibility will put another tool in the toolbox of our law enforcement partners.

“When we respond to a crash, we see far too often how a dangerous choice can take a life or seriously hurt the people involved. By then, it's too late," said Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson. “The higher vantage point of the traffic safety vehicle will help us see distractions, unbelted passengers and child restraint issues and intervene before something terrible happens."

The grantees will work with other law enforcement agencies in their areas to make sure the vehicles are used to best serve Minnesotans. Recipients will also use the new vehicles to educate the public on safe driving through community engagement events at local schools, public health agencies and businesses.

OTS received the funding for this project from the 2023 Minnesota Transportation Omnibus bill. Each agency awarded funds from OTS  was required to match 20 percent of the total equipment costs in order to demonstrate a vested interest and commitment to the program. ​​​​​