By virtue of North Dakota’s commitment to ending roadway fatalities through its strategic highway safety plan known as Vision Zero, the state’s Highway Patrol Department conducted an All-Hands Enforcement event on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and Sunday, Dec.1, the two busiest days of the season for the state’s highways.
Throughout both days of the event, all available NDHP troopers patrolled the state’s roadways, vigilantly safeguarding the state’s mandates, as well as its motorists.
“During the event, the NDHP conducted 629 traffic stops, issued 561 citations, performed 43 commercial motor vehicle inspections, investigated 14 crashes and assisted 83 motorists,” read a press release from the department issued Dec. 4. What’s more, troopers made 20 drug-related arrests and six DUI arrests.
“When I first got into law enforcement we would say ‘well, let’s try and reduce fatalities by ten this year,’” Sergeant Wade Kadrmas of the NDHP told the Press. “But any life lost on the roadway is tragic, you know? Our goal is always going to be zero.”
The Vision Zero initiative, adopted at the beginning of 2018, is a result of the combined efforts of three main agencies: North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health. With the coordination of these three bodies, the strategy is implemented in four parts: engineering, which ensures that roads are designed safely; enforcement of existing laws which aims to encourage responsibility in motorists; educational outreach through entities like schools and the media; and emergency management which analyzes and discusses roadway crashes.
In preparation for Vision Zero, the DoT held several meetings with various stakeholders, safety agencies and businesses like the North Dakota Safety Council to determine some of the biggest problems motorists faced on the state’s highways and roadways. By utilizing crash statistics and other empirical information, the state was able to pinpoint a few of its trouble areas.
“Obviously, speed has always been a factor in crashes,” Kadrmas said. “Same with right-of-way violations, whether somebody’s failing to yield, not properly signaling when they’re turning, or going through stop signs or red lights: these are some of the main causes of crashes.”
The department also reported issuing three distracted driving violations, another major root of roadway incidents.
“That’s one of our tougher laws to enforce because we don’t have a hands-free law like Minnesota just implemented,” Kadrmas said. “We have to see some other types of traffic violation being committed. So, if somebody has a phone in their hands, they’re trying to dial and they’re crossing the centerline or going off the road then that’s a violation.”
Moving forward, the department intends to use public awareness as a tool for safety.
“One of our plans is to start conducting more high visibility enforcement where we announce the event,” Kadrmas said of NDHP’s main focuses— enforcement and education. “Just the announcement itself, with the media helping us get the word out there that’s there’s going to be extra troopers on the road, we hope encourages people to voluntarily comply with our traffic laws.”
“Whether it’s through media outreach or educational efforts or if it’s through enforcement efforts, that’s what our goal is: to change drivers’ behavior so the first thing they think about when they get in the car is they put on their seatbelt, they put down their phone and they focus—focus on driving, focus on following all of our traffic laws, having patience while your driving, being courteous to other drivers, things like that,” the sergeant added.
The sergeant had this thought to offer North Dakota’s motorists: “I was out over most of these days and, you know, speeding is one of the higher percentages of the citations we issued,” the NDHP official said in conclusion. “To me, that says there’s an issue with speed out there. Whether somebody doesn’t realize that they’re speeding or not, or knows that they’re speeding, it’s against the law— speed limits are set for a reason.
“We just ask drivers to abide by the speed limits, we ask drivers to always wear their seatbelts, whether it’s the driver or any occupant in the vehicle and to drive responsibly— that’s the main thing.”