On Monday night at the St. James fire hall there was a meeting for the Watonwan County Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) organization. The goal of this group is to decrease the amount of fatalities due to car accidents, with the ultimate goal being zero deaths.
There were members of the police force, ambulance squad, drivers ed instructors, and members of the community from both Madelia and St. James that were present at the meeting. All of the members of the discussed the problems that they have seen within their community, and what steps need to be taken in order to attempt to fix the problem.

According to mndot.gov the two biggest causes of crashes in Watonwan county were lane departures, and at intersections.

From 2011 to 2015 Watonwan county was one of the lowest counties in regards to automobile fatalities reaching only four deaths in that four year span. In that same time frame Watonwan county tallied 17 serious injuries.

The three main problems that were brought up were seat belts, distracted driving, and the move over law.

With many emergency responders present at the meeting much of the room agreed that the move over law is a big problem. In Minnesota when there are flashing lights on the shoulder drivers on the roadway are required to move over a lane or slow down. The biggest problem is enforcing the law. Most of the time when there is a law enforcement vehicle on the shoulder they are preoccupied with the situation at hand. This means that if somebody were to break the move over law the officer can not pursue them. If there is more than one law enforcement vehicle at the location, then they are able to enforce the move over law.

The majority of the time on Monday was spent on discussing how to get more people to wear their seat belts. The group decided that they will perform a seat belt check at the local schools. There will be people checking students coming to school for their seat belts, if they were caught wearing their belt then they would receive some sort of prize.

They cited Martin County West who did this same thing and the students received coupons for local businesses as a reward for wearing their seat belts.

This seat belt checkpoint is meant to gather information so the group knows where they are at, after they get the results the coalition will be able to better assess what needs to be fixed, and how to go about fixing it.

Outside the St. James fire hall they just recently painted the words “Buckle-up!” on the asphalt. This message is to make sure that even in an emergency it is important to buckle up.

The next meeting will be held in November 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Madelia Fire hall.