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Blog Archive: August 2014

Back to School? Make Safety Lesson Number One

 
Posted August 28, 2014
 
Does anyone remember the school safety patrol? It was such an honor to be chosen to put on that canvas-like shoulder belt, smartly adjust the fit because the last user was two sizes larger or smaller than you, and stand at the corner making sure your grade-school colleagues were able to leave school property without experiencing any (highly unlikely) form of vehicular-related tragedy.
 
At one time, getting across that street was the most dangerous part of the day for a school kid. Today, we still have safety patrols to help students cross the street — but there are many other safety issues to consider. Parents might want to print this post and discuss it with their own school-age children, whether they’re starting kindergarten or finishing college.
 
Stay Safe Online
 
As children get reacquainted with friends after a summer off, they’ll want to continue conversations online. Parents should learn the signs of cyberbullying and watch for teasing, humiliation or harassment in kids’ communications. Consider these steps, as well:
  • Limit online information-sharing. Talk to your children about what’s safe and what isn’t, including personal information and photos.
  • Take charge of electronic devices. Establish guidelines for use, and understand what the devices in your home can do. Your kids will figure that out quickly.
  • Use monitoring software to be sure you’re aware of your children’s Internet use and know who they’re communicating with. Report inappropriate online contacts.
Stay Safe Walking or Riding
Most children have outgrown their child car-seat by the time they start school, and Minnesota law requires booster seats to help seat belts fit properly until a child reaches age 8 or a height of 4 feet, 9 inches.
 
Kid on school bus.
Photo: Child looking for traffic before exiting school bus.
Around school buses, both parents and children need to take precautions. If you’re driving, you need to stop for any bus with red flashing lights or a stop-arm extended. There may be children beyond your sight-line, and kids move fast. The easiest and safest way to avoid dealing with school buses may be to alter your route and avoid them. If you ride one, look for vehicles on the shoulder of the road before you step into, or out of, the bus. Crossing the street, check for traffic you can’t see on the other side of a bus — and make sure drivers see you before you walk in front of them.
 
Be Safe at School
  • Schools should have a safety plan, and parents should be familiar with it.
  • Talk to your child about school tornado and fire drills, and make sure they know what to do. Practicing fire drills at home is smart, too. Often, children die in fires because they try to hide, or they return to the burning house. Most of them were never taught not to do that.
  • Review special needs. (For example, if your child has asthma, how would the inhaler be accessible in an emergency?)
  • Tell your kids it’s okay to report suspicious behavior. If they notice something out of place at school or on the bus, they should tell a trusted adult or call 911. They should not touch objects they can’t identify; instead, they should move away and report the situation.
Keep Kids Ready at Every Age
 
These are things you may never have considered — things that can save lives.
  • Does your child have a list of essential phone numbers that’s not in a mobile device? They should have phone lists in their backpacks that include contact information for parents, grandparents, neighbors or other care givers.
  • Do you have a designated meeting place for your family? Choose a landmark…a building familiar to your kids. Make it clear that’s where you’ll meet if the family gets separated.
  • Choose an out-of-town contact every family member can call to report they’re okay. Remind children that land lines can be used if their cell phones don’t work.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your home and be sure everyone knows where it is.
Fire Kills College Students, On- and Off-Campus

It happens every year — mostly because students just don’t know how to keep themselves safe. Make sure they know these basics:
  • In off-campus housing, put a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on each level of the house.
  • Clean up immediately after parties. Take trash outside. Check the couch cushions. Smoldering cigarettes kill people.
  • Check for automatic sprinkler systems. If the option exists, choose the place that has one.
  • Find two escape routes for use day or night. Practice using them, and keep the path clear.
  • If an alarm sounds, move! Get out. Don’t worry about grabbing your stuff.
  • Students with visual, hearing or physical impairments should also plan ahead for fire safety.
An Hour You Will Get Back

If you’ve read these suggestions, you’ll see a common denominator here. It’s common sense — something too often applied after-the-fact.
 
This year, make it a planning tool. Discussing this list with your family might take 30 minutes. If you check out the links, it could stretch to an hour. And that could be the best time investment you make this year.
 

Ahhh. Labor Day weekend. For Minnesotans, it’s the last blast of “real” summer.

 
Posted August 25, 2014
 
Autumn is often enjoyable — but despite our ability to spend the month of September in a state of orange-tinged, sundrenched denial, everyone knows it’s over at the end of August. After the “dog days” that inevitably arrive with the State Fair, it’s pretty much all she wrote.
 
If we want to enjoy the cabin one more time, or drive back to the home town before we have to slide there, Labor Day weekend is the time to go. Some of us travel reluctantly, because everyone else in the state is on the move, too. Half of them are pulling boats or trailers, so traffic will be awful. That makes the trip less pleasant…maybe a little slower…and coupled with the fact that people tend to party on long weekends, it’s certainly more dangerous.
 
Driver using seatbelt in car.
Photo: Driver buckling her seatbelt.
From the standpoint of travel safety, though, there’s bad news and good news. You can’t avoid the complications. Traffic will be heavy, tempers may be short (nobody likes closing up the cabin), and some of the people you’re sharing the road with may be impaired.
 
The good news is you’re not entirely at the mercy of the situation. There are things you can do to make the trip safer and more relaxed. Here’s how — and why:
 
Buckle up. Over the last three years, Labor Day weekend crashes caused 16 deaths and 659 injuries. That averages about 73 injuries each day, each year. It’s impossible to count things that didn’t happen, but with stats as a guide, fewer than 14 of those injuries each year, on average, were “serious” because most people involved were wearing seat belts. Minnesota law requires you to wear them, but don’t buckle up because you have to. Do it because you can’t control other people’s driving. And because seat belts work.
 
Slow down. Traveling 10 miles at 75 mph versus 65 shaves off about one minute and 12 seconds. If you’re traveling 100 miles, speeding the whole way, you’ll arrive at your destination 720 seconds sooner, having annoyed a lot of already-frustrated drivers, put yourself in danger of being unable to stop if you need to, and risked getting a speeding ticket the entire time. Winter won’t be here that soon. For 12 minutes, it’s not worth it.
 
Drive sober. The numbers tell a sad story. From 2011 through 2013, Labor Day weekend DWI arrests numbered 1,477. That’s more than 490 people each year — in three days. And those were the ones who got caught. Three of the 16 fatalities on those weekends involved drunk drivers who caused their own deaths or someone else’s. There’s no reason, and no excuse, to put yourself and others in that kind of danger. Just arrange a sober ride and stay off the statistics list.
 
Pay attention. Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, and nowadays, about as popular as smoking in an elevator. If a text message is more important than the lives and safety of the kids in the car ahead of you, your priorities are out of order. So set a good example. Watch the road.
 
And please, do enjoy yourself. The next set of driving tips here may include references to snow and ice.
 

Big Maroon Hats, Cool Cruisers, Smart Dogs, A Vintage Harley and a Helicopter - It's State Patrol Day at the State Fair

 
Posted August 21, 2014
 
Here’s your chance to inspect a hi-tech Minnesota State Patrol cruiser, chat with Patrol officers (human and canine) and get close to some vintage law-enforcement vehicles, including the 1930-model Harley Davidson. It’s going to happen at Promo Place, at the north end of the fairgrounds (just east of the Pet Center) on Monday, Aug. 25 at the Minnesota State Fair.
 
Attendees at State Fair for State Patrol Day
​Photo: Attendees at the state fairgrounds
for State Patrol Day.
From 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., demonstrations will rotate through the day. Every 30 minutes, watch an MSP K-9 handler and one of the 15 specially trained MSP dogs. The dogs, mostly Belgian Malinois, include some other breeds, as well, because their sizes are appropriate to the jobs they do. Find out more about that…and don’t miss the demos on vehicle airbags. (This is the most comfortable way to find out exactly how they work; you don’t want the first-hand experience.)
 
Troopers will be there all day to demonstrate the popular “Fatal Vision” goggles, too. Put these things on and get a “sobering view of what impairment can do,” as the manufacturer describes their effect. The goggles have special lenses that allow you to experience a realistic simulation of impairment — which, when you’re sober, makes it perfectly clear why you shouldn’t be driving when you’re not.
Around mid-day, the Toward Zero Deaths program will be looking for fairgoers to comment on-camera about their perception of distracted driving— and if you’re there, you might end up in a Toward Zero Deaths video.
 
The State Patrol Honor Guard will post colors during a special ceremony at 10:20 a.m. near the band shell, and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter will take off from the display area between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Hold on to your hat — literally.)
 
State Patrol Day is an opportunity to learn things about MSP you may not ever have heard before, and to understand more about what our Troopers do.
 
Their high-profile assignment is patrolling roads and highways to assist motorists and enforce driving laws. But there’s much more to the MSP than that. You’re invited to visit them at the State Fair and get the big picture on this impressive organization.
 

Big Red Trucks and Spotted Dogs!

Fire Prevention Day at the Fair is August 22

 
Posted August 18, 2014
 
This is the 16th year for Governor’s Fire Prevention Day at the state fair, and people never get tired of those trucks and hoses and fiery demonstrations. Kids eat up the Fire Escape House right along with their mini-donuts, and everybody loves the Fire Explorer Challenge events at Carousel Park. That’s where students (ages 15 to 20) who are learning about firefighting skills compete in five events: search and rescue, ladder raise, gear donning (the professional time limit is two minutes; some of the Explorers can do it in under a minute), spinal immobilization and cardiac arrest management.
 
students (ages 15 to 20) who are learning about firefighting skills by competing in events
Photo: Fire Explorer Challenge ladder raise event with students.
When that’s not going on, the Carousel Stage will feature demonstrations on CPR and AED (that’s an Automated External Defibrillator, the device they use to shock a heart back into operation) and also fire extinguisher training. (Do you know exactly how to use yours?)
The biggest attractions on Fire Prevention Day are the “Hot Zone,” relocated this year to the Promo Place at the north end of the fairgrounds, just east of the Pet Center, and the Flag-Raising Ceremony at Leinie’s Lodge.
 
From 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., the Hot Zone features demonstrations on car fires (they’re really nasty and hard to extinguish), fire-sprinkler system demos (if you haven’t seen how fast they work, it’s worth a look), AED demonstrations, big trucks, firefighters to talk to, and much to learn. You might even get a free gift you can take home to remind you of a fun day at the fair — and a lifesaving lesson.
 
At the 10:10 a.m. Flag Raising Ceremony at Leinie’s Lodge, you’ll see a lot of dress uniforms and hear traditional bagpipes in a ceremony that will give you goose bumps if you’re prone to that type of thing. You’ll also hear dignitaries honor our firefighting heroes and talk about the importance of fire prevention because — for them, and for you — the easiest fire to extinguish is the one that never starts.
 
Check out the mock car-crash scenes at noon and 3:30 p.m. in the Family Fair area. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but it’s fascinating. You’ll see what happens when first responders arrive at the scene of a crash and begin using their special skills to save lives.
 
The Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division will host a display, too, because fires, weather disasters, power outages and other emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere in Minnesota. Being ready can make the difference between suffering and surviving. Visit them in the Hot Zone and learn to stay ready for anything. It’s not hard to do — and you can make it easier by picking up a free Preparedness Kit tote-bag for your home or car.
 
The Department of Natural Resources will host fire safety lessons in the DNR building all day, so if you enjoy the outdoors, maybe you and the kids could use a refresher on fire-safe behavior at the campground.
 
At the Ramberg Senior Center, there’s a “Hazard House.” It sounds like something from a horror film — but in fact, it’s a way to point out fire hazards we don’t think about when we’re old enough to know the toaster should be unplugged, and young enough to remember to do it. That’s one small example of the lessons for seniors and kids — and some of the others might surprise you.
 
This event is made possible with the cooperation of nearly 80 organizations, and it will make your day at the State Fair one to remember. Learn and enjoy!
 

Mr. Brewski, You're a Liar and I Don't Deserve to Die

Okay, it sounds like a country song — but consider this for just a cotton-pickin’ minute
Posted August 14, 2014
 
People whose social lives include alcohol may have had this conversation:
“You okay to drive? Need a ride? “
“No, I’m great.”
“Really? We’d be glad to…”
“No, seriously. I’m fine. See you guys later.”
 
Buzz kill: Some of those people are no longer with us. Others are living every day with the knowledge that they ended or hideously altered another person’s life.
 
It’s worth a minute to reflect:
 
Drive Sober of Get Pulled Over logo

How does alcohol manage to lie to us about how much we’re impaired? Others can see clearly, at a certain stage, that we’re not sober. But a major downside of alcohol is its ability to convince us we’re “fine” when it’s just not true.
 
That lie has been partially responsible for 279 drunk-driving deaths on Minnesota roads since 2011. Simple math — that’s three years at 93 people per year. And in 2013 alone, 2,300 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes.
 
“Suffered injuries,” by the way, is pretty sterile language for what actually happens. Consider your best friend on crutches with a ruined knee. Your child in a wheelchair, spine crushed. Your mom’s face beat up by an airbag, or your brother lying still with a breathing tube and a shattered skull. That’s what “suffered injuries” often means.
 
So many people in Minnesota have been killed or maimed by drivers who believed the big alcohol lie that Governor Mark Dayton is officially proclaiming Thursday, August 14, as Impaired Driving Victims Day.
 
Our state is also recognizing the value of a special Minnesota license plate — “Remembering Victims of Impaired Drivers” — designed to honor crash victims, show support for their loved ones and increase awareness of impaired driving.
 
Those are good reasons to think twice the next time you leave a gathering with alcohol in your system. Here’s another one: The legal limit in Minnesota is .08, and if you get stopped and blow anything higher than that, you’ll enter the nightmare world of DWI. The fines are expensive, the legal process is time consuming and the professional fallout can be severe. You could end up with “W” plates on every vehicle registered in your name.
 
To reinforce those thoughts, the State Patrol and close to 400 other law enforcement agencies will be looking for impaired drivers Aug. 16 through Sept. 1. Additional patrols will be targeting drivers who exhibit signs of impairment and trying to get them off the road.
 
So next time you hear yourself say, “I’m fine,” reflect a minute. Consider whether you’re being lied to by the alcohol. Maybe you really are fine. Or maybe you leave the car and accept that sober ride.
 
You make the decision — and you live with the results.
 

After Officer Patrick’s Funeral, a Guide to the Rules Behind the Ritual

 
Posted August 11, 2014
 
Last week, we witnessed one of the saddest and most moving rituals in the world of public safety — the mourning, remembrance and burial of a police officer killed in the line of duty. While the Department of Public Safety communications staff assisted with logistics and media relations, the Law Enforcement Memorial Association, the Mendota Heights Police Department and several other organizations helped organize a proper memorial that honored the family’s needs and allowed the public to share in recognizing a brave public servant gone too soon.
 
Officer Patrick
Photo: Officer Patrick
As events unfolded, reporter Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio wrote a piece about the planning behind a police officer memorial. The following is presented with permission from MPR as an excellent explanation of how that process works.
 
10 things to know about Minnesota police officer memorials
 
Memorial services for peace officers killed in the line of duty are fortunately rare in Minnesota.
 
But they're regular enough that the law enforcement community has been adapting and changing the process, adding their own stamp to one of humanity's oldest rituals.
 
Here's a look at what they look like today, and why.
 
1. The funeral process starts almost immediately. Officials with Minnesota's Law Enforcement Memorial Association contact the chief of the affected agency to offer help and an outline of how the process has gone in the past. Larger departments often have staff that have gone through the ritual for their colleagues.
 
2. Officers train for funeral duties. Bigger departments may have ceremonial units, and the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association established an "Honor Guard" in 1991. Those volunteer officers are trained by the "Old Guard," the U.S. Army's 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment that conducts memorials and other ceremonies for the military, including the sentinels posted at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery.
 
3. The funeral services are set by the family of the fallen officer. In Minnesota, some have been held in small churches, others have been large public events, like the funeral for North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden, held at the Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. The rite reflects the survivors wishes, often in consultation with the police agency involved.
 
4. A procession after the funeral may now include a horse-drawn funeral caisson. The Law Enforcement Memorial Association raised funds to purchase the caisson and first used it for the funeral of Cold Spring officer Tom Decker in 2012.
5. A rifle squad of seven officers typically fires a 21-gun salute, in three volleys after the formal funeral services. The rifles for the Law Enforcement Memorial Association are ceremonial, and used specifically for funerals.
 
6. Music is a key part of the ritual. Funerals may include a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace." The Law Enforcement Memorial Association also has a bugler corps to play "Taps." A funeral may feature a pair of buglers, arranged to create an echo effect.
 
7. Departments have recently begun a tradition of publicly "retiring" a peace officer's work designation during the memorial ceremonies. That will include an unanswered radio call by a dispatcher to the fallen officer's squad number, closed with an end of service or "end of watch" call. Badge numbers are typically retired as well.
 
8. The U.S. flag that may drape an officer's coffin is folded by a squad of officers trained in the process. The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs suggests a 5-step process that leaves visible just stars on field of blue.
 
9. Behind-the-scenes support for the family starts almost immediately and will continue with support for obtaining a long list of survivor benefits, short-term financial support and the opportunity to participate in an annual ritual in May. Minnesota has a chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors that will offer counseling and emotional support to survivors.
 
10. The memorials for officers can go on for years. During the holidays, the Law Enforcement Memorial Association sends a wreath, with a blue ribbon, to the surviving families of fallen officers across the state.
 
By Tim Nelson, MPR
Source: Minnesota Public Radio research, Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association
“10 things to know about Minnesota police officer memorials” from Minnesota Public Radio (c) 2014. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
 

Minnesota Welcomes Forensic Scientists from 34 Countries and All 50 States

 
Posted August 7, 2014
 
Next week, the International Association for Identification (IAI) will hold their 2014 annual conference in Minneapolis, and DPS Deputy Commissioner Mark Dunaski will welcome the group to Minnesota. His audience will consist of more than 1,000 forensic scientists and investigators from all over the world — crime lab people like the ones on CSI, NCIS and The Blacklist — but these are the real items.
This gathering of the oldest and largest forensic association in the world is the 99th annual event and the 50th anniversary year of the Minnesota IAI chapter, with an agenda designed to keep skills sharp, minds informed and technology awareness up-to-date.
 
Forensic scientists are people who perform the laboratory tests that help investigators solve crimes. They analyze evidence of every type, from shoe prints to saliva samples and from blood to bullets. Forensic specialists work in police departments, laboratories, morgues, coroners’ offices and crime scenes — wherever their detection and analysis skills can help determine the truth.
 
The Minnesota chapter of the IAI is hosting this year’s meeting, which in addition to the displays, hands-on sessions and presentations, will include a lot of discussion on accreditation.Most U.S. crime labs are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLAD/LAB), whose accreditation program began in 1981 and is still the only organization of its kind that focuses solely on crime-lab operations.
 
Forensic scientist analyzing fingerprints
Photo: Forensic scientist analyzing fingerprints.
There are now 399 crime labs accredited in the U.S., according to ASCLAD. The list includes 184 accredited state laboratories, and two of those belong to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Of 134 accredited local-agency labs, three are in Minnesota — the Tri-County Regional Lab in Anoka, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Crime Lab Unit and the Minneapolis Police Department Lab. Not every lab is accredited in every category of forensics, but the BCA lab has been accredited in all 24 disciplines for the last 20 years. The Target Corporation, with its home in Minnesota, also has two accredited laboratory locations — one in Minneapolis and another in Las Vegas.
 
Significantly, the Minnesota legislature passed a law this session that mandates forensic laboratories operating in Minnesota after January 1, 2015 (with few, very specific exceptions) must be accredited.
 
In addition to accreditation, the IAI concerns itself with certification for individuals in specific disciplines of forensic science. There are eight different areas of certification right now, and as you’d expect, they’re very specialized. They include specialties in bloodstain pattern analysis, footwear, forensic art (based on enough skull remnants, these people can tell you what a victim looked like), photography, video, latent (accidental or hidden) prints, ten-print fingerprints and crime scenes.
 
Based on that information one can assume there will be a lot of jargon used in these meetings. There is so much to know about forensic science that even people in the field must stick to one or two areas in order to perform successfully.
But this is the bottom line: Minnesota is a good place to be a specialist in forensic science, and it’s a great place to be a person who depends on forensic scientists to solve crimes. And that would be…everyone.
 
In crime solving, success can mean conviction or it can mean exoneration. In forensic laboratories, success means one thing: truth. The IAI and the State of Minnesota are both dedicated to supporting and sustaining that success.
 

This is a Drill! Minnesota Prepares to Succeed

 
Posted August 4, 2014
 
Ben Franklin was a practical man who apparently didn’t like surprises. He’s the one who claimed to read the obituaries immediately upon waking each morning; if his name didn’t appear, he’d get out of bed.
 
Mr. Franklin didn’t waste words, either. One of his finest quotes is this: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. In his practicality, he knew that preparation could make the difference between trouble and disaster.
 
At the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, being prepared is the bedrock of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM).
 
HSEM has responsibility for making sure state government is on alert, ready to handle any potential disaster, natural or man-made — and an incident at one of Minnesota’s nuclear power-generating plants is an unlikely situation they must always be ready to handle.
 
Accordingly, HSEM annually holds a Radiological Emergency Preparedness exercise attended and scrutinized by FEMA representatives. In each exercise, a scenario created by Xcel Energy and HSEM staff involves the Prairie Island or Monticello power plant (they alternate by year). The scenario determines the course of events during the exercise, and may range from an “unusual event,” which may have no serious repercussions, to an actual release of radiation. The 2014 exercise involved a simulated attack by armed terrorists.
 
DPS staff in the State Emergency Operations Center during a REP drill.
Photo: DPS staff and state agency partners
in the SEOC during a REP drill.
Under the scrutiny of federal preparedness experts who attend the exercise, HSEM opens the State Emergency Operations Center, and representatives from dozens of state agencies, local governments, military organizations and non-profit entities begin showing up. They open their laptops, connect to a dedicated computer network, and begin receiving updates on the scenario at the plant. They start communicating with each other while HSEM leadership and Xcel Energy management decide how to react to the unfolding situation.
 
In the Joint Information Center (JIC), public information officers gather and staff the phones, taking staged media calls and preparing information for the public. The scenario includes details like wind direction and road conditions, and challenges like equipment failure or missing nuclear plant staff. Each time new developments occur, a part of the plan is implemented — protecting livestock, closing highways, moving school children to “sister schools,” or even evacuation of residents in areas potentially affected by radiation — and the JIC staff responds with more information.
 
In the DPS media room, volunteers play the role of journalists to create realistic news conferences at which DPS leaders, power company and plant managers, government officials, military staff, State Patrol officers and others provide updates.
 
There are decades of training, detailed planning and careful execution behind these exercises. Assuring people’s safety is not a one-day event. Participants in year-round planning include hospitals, schools, reception centers, decontamination centers, field teams, laboratory facilities, and every type of service and facility necessary to protect Minnesota citizens living in proximity to one of the nuclear generating plants.
 
FEMA representatives evaluate more than 2,000 aspects of Minnesota’s statewide radiological emergency preparedness plan and exercise, and report all their findings. If necessary, DPS and Xcel Energy implement a corrective action plan. FEMA gets a copy of that plan and reviews everything again, because they require assurance that Minnesota and the energy company are ready to protect the lives and safety of the public.
 
And there’s a bonus in all this. People everywhere in Minnesota are safer because DPS staff is trained and ready. When the I-35W bridge fell, all the appropriate staffers and their partners in government and law enforcement went immediately into response mode, handling the situation as they would any unexpected event — calmly, methodically and effectively.
 
Bottom line — all situations cannot be accurately foreseen, but a huge number of possibilities can be anticipated and prepared for. Minnesota prepares to succeed.
 

Four Days, Zero Fatalities — Can We Do It?

 
Posted August 1, 2014
 
From west to east, Interstate 90 begins in Seattle, Wash. and ends in Boston, Mass. Along the way, our longest interstate highway runs through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
 
Its cousin, I-94, is the longest stretch of interstate that doesn’t touch either U.S. coast. It separates from I-90 near Billings, Mont. and continues east through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, terminating in Port Huron, Mich.
 
That’s nearly 5,700 miles of concrete on which vehicles running 55 to 75 mph crash into each other every day. From Aug. 1 through 4 over the last three years, an average of 524 crashes took place on I-90 and I-94. They all happened within 96 hours, injuring 136 people, on average, and killing three. And there’s the rub.
 
In every highway crash, a vehicle is the least important thing potentially destroyed. High-speed crashes destroy lives. It’s a problem that needs a solution.
 
The Interstate 90/94 Challenge is a multi-state collaboration designed to put more law enforcement on the road and stop motorists who are speeding, ignoring seatbelts, driving impaired or distracted, or otherwise behaving dangerously. It’s taking place from Friday through Monday, Aug. 1–4, in hopes of entirely preventing deaths on those interstates during that time.
 
Image of I90 and I94 Challenge Promotional Spot from TV
The initiative is being led by the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) with cooperation from 14 other states. MSP Lt. Col. Matt Langer says law enforcement is “…looking to go 0-for-4 this weekend — zero traffic fatalities and fewer than 300 total crashes along the entire I-90/94 corridor over four days.”
 
It’s an honorable goal, and one to which you can easily contribute if you drive either one of those highways. Here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:
 
• Higher rates of impact equal more damage. More damage equals more deaths. Slow down. You’ll still get there.
• Wear your seat belt. You already know seat belts save lives. The statistics are everywhere. So buckle up. You’ll get there eventually — and probably alive.
• Drive sober. This is not complicated. You arrange for a sober ride before you begin consuming whatever can make you un-sober. Then you party. And you get home without killing yourself or anyone else.
• Pay attention. You’re moving at highway speeds. The car will not protect you if you miss something and fail to react properly. Put the phone down and watch the road.
 
You’re invited to join the challenge and see if together, drivers in 15 states can go four days without 524 crashes and three fatalities. We think it can be done. It’s up to you.