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Playing a part to bring us closer to zero

Published in Trauma Services, Inside CentraCare, For the Health of It Author: Melissa Hjelle

Injury Prevention Specialist
CentraCare Health

You may be familiar with the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths campaign from roadside signs, TV and radio. What you may not know is how CentraCare Health — like many other health care organizations — is playing a part in this effort.

First, some background. Toward Zero Deaths started in 2003 on the belief that even one traffic-related death on our roads is unacceptable. In the years prior to the campaign’s start, the number of traffic fatalities in Minnesota had been steadily climbing.

To help reverse this trend, Toward Zero Deaths developed a plan of attack focusing on four different focus areas. These have become known as the "4Es."

  • Education: It’s not enough to just know the “rules of the road.” Rather, the campaign is focused on driver behavior and encouraging safe habits.
  • Enforcement: Ensuring compliance and reducing unsafe driving practices.
  • Engineering: Modifying and reconstructing roadways to help improve safety.
  • Emergency Medical and Trauma Services: Creating an infrastructure for when crashes do occur, emergency medical services are available to provide life-saving care in a timely manner.

Together, these efforts are making a difference. In 2013, Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths reported a 40 percent decrease in traffic fatalities compared to 1995-2003. A statewide survey also has shown an increase in seat belt use.

As Central Minnesota’s Level II Trauma Center, St. Cloud Hospital plays part in both the Education and Emergency Medical and Trauma Services focus areas. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of trauma codes at St. Cloud Hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center. With this in mind, the Trauma Services Department set forth to bring traffic safety and prevention to the forefront.

In my role as Injury Prevention Specialist, within the Trauma Services department, I felt inspired to bring together enforcement, educators, engineers, EMS, public health professionals, prosecutors and others in the community with the aim of eliminating serious injuries and or fatalities occurring on our roads.

Thus, the Stearns & Benton Coalition of Toward Zero Deaths was recently created. To learn more and to follow our progress, visit our Facebook page at Through our new coalition, we also are working to offer presentations and educational events for area high schools, drivers education courses, community organizations or professional businesses.

If you have interest in becoming involved with traffic safety and prevention by joining the Stearns & Benton Coalition or bringing forward a presentation or event to your organization, please contact me at or at 320-251-2700 ext 52574.

Thank you and safe travels!