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Traffic patrol is there for a reason

The most common citizen complaints we receive regard speeding and poor driving habits. In the summer, complaints about speeding tend to tick up a few notches. People are outside more often and with our children at play, we all have a sense of hypervigilance and pay extra attention to vehicle travel and driver caution ... or lack of caution.

Traffic safety has always been a priority for me. Traffic safety/enforcement at one time in my career was something officers did on a voluntary basis. Some officers were passionate about it while others had little interest.

In 2013, as patrol deputy chief, I gave a directive that every officer was expected to be engaged in traffic enforcement while on patrol. One trend we have seen is when traffic enforcement increases we see fewer crashes, contributing to fewer injuries and deaths.

The police department logged about 104,000 calls for service in 2015. Of those 104,000 calls, 21,373 were traffic stops. Essentially 20 percent of our activities are related to addressing traffic safety concerns and complaints.

While engaged in traffic enforcement we come into contact with drivers who are impaired, distracted or reckless, who speed or have no insurance or valid driver license. Sometimes we stop drivers with warrants for their arrest; we may seize illegal drugs, firearms or recover stolen property. Traffic enforcement is an important public safety tool to help keep our community safe.

Additionally, the Duluth Police Department is the fiscal agent for the TZD program (Toward Zero Deaths) in which we coordinate traffic enforcement areas to enforcement campaigns on speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving and seatbelts. We partner with the Minnesota State Patrol, Hermantown, Proctor and St. Louis County Sheriff's Department. Enforcement locations are identified as areas where there is high-volume traffic or sometimes an area where we have seen an increase in traffic crashes and/or complaints.

Mere enforcement alone is not the only way to address or evaluate traffic patterns and trends. We sometimes deploy speed trailers to show drivers' speeds and bring awareness to drivers' attention to change driving habits. These trailers are not just a display. While showing speeds, a computer on board records the number of cars, speeds, the highest and lowest speeds and the average speed of vehicle traffic.

We also utilize a device called a Stealth Stat. These devices are deployed covertly and capture speeds of vehicles without creating driver awareness. This data is important because it truly reflects the speed the public travels "when nobody is looking." This device also conducts traffic counts and high, low and average speeds.

These devices are critical timesavers for the police department staff. I recall being a young patrol officer and spending four hours parked on a street with a notebook, recording vehicle speeds. The pace and demands on our time today would not allow for us to do traffic studies the "old-fashioned way."

Now that school is out and summer is upon us, think safety when driving. Reduce speed and distractions, plan for a designated driver if you will be drinking and wear your seatbelt or helmet. Together we will keep each other safe while we enjoy summertime fun and sun.

Contact Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken at 730-5020 or

Mike Tusken

Contact Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken at 730-5020.