Nearly 900 traffic safety professionals are in St. Cloud for the annual Toward Zero Death Conference. The event which runs through today puts an emphasis on the latest information and ideas to reduce traffic-related fatalities and life-changing injuries. Mike Hanson with the Office of Traffic Safety says there are four key factors responsible for the vast majority of  fatal crashes:

“Speeding number one, impaired driving. There’s no excuse for anybody to wind up in the backseat of a squad, an ambulance, or heaven forbid a hearse because of a bad decision to get behind the wheel when somebody is impaired. Seatbelts, unbelted drivers, and passengers are responsible for a third of our fatalities, and then finally distraction.”

Hanson says while significant progress has been made since the Toward Zero Death program began in 2003, the increase in traffic-related deaths since COVID is alarming. He says 488 people died in traffic-related crashes last year, the most since 2007. This year they are projecting around 450 traffic-related deaths.