Sen. Kathy Sheran and Rep. Terry Morrow today introduced legislation that would set up a Rural Road Safety Task Force to study and develop strategies to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on Minnesota’s rural roads.
The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota would provide assistance to the task force. Task Force members would include the commissioners of Transportation, Public Safety and Health, members of the legislature, representatives from rural counties, CERS representatives and members associated with the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) Coalition.
“We need to take a serious look at the safety of our rural highways,” Sen. Sheran said. “U.S. Census figures show that 21 percent of Americans live in rural areas, but that about 57 percent of highway deaths occur on rural roads. Furthermore, the two-lane segment between North Mankato and New Ulm has a fatality rate 96% above the statewide average for the years 2007-2009. It’s time to take proactive measures to end such tragedies.”
The plan called for in the legislation would build on current State Highway Safety Plans and county-level safety plans.
“In this task force we bring together the best and brightest people who will bring to the table knowledge and expertise to help solve the crisis on our rural highways,” Rep. Morrow said. “Gathering the expertise of the folks at CERS and TZD and our local officials will give us a fighting chance to reduce accidents and save lives.”
If the bill passes, reports on strategies and prevention measure are due to the legislature as soon as next year.
“The task force will need to move forward quickly,” Sen. Sheran said. “We owe it to rural Minnesotans to bring a plan to the legislature that can be discussed and acted on as soon as possible.”