N.D. crash fatalities decrease

BISMARCK—Fewer North Dakotans are dying in car accidents this year compared to last year.

As of Monday, 59 people have died from motor vehicle crashes in North Dakota, compared to 92 people at the same time last year, the North Dakota Highway Patrol said in a news release. The patrol encourages drivers to stay safe on the road as Labor Day weekend approaches.

Rumble strips, turning lanes, education efforts and enforcement campaigns are proving to be effective measures to help reduce crash rates, according to the patrol.

Western North Dakota experienced a marked decrease in fatality rates compared to last year. Statistics indicate motor vehicle fatalities for the 17 oil and gas producing counties are 56 percent lower than this point last year. 

Nineteen motorists have died in this region compared to 43 at the same time last year. 

Excessive speed, alcohol impairment, right-of-way violations and inattention are common contributing factors for North Dakota traffic crashes, the patrol said.

Lack of seatbelt use also continues to contribute to preventable injuries and deaths.  Additional crash statistics are available at www.nd.gov/ndhp/.

Teen driving challenge

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is looking for teen drivers to participate in a safety program.
Ford Driving Skills for Life, one of the nation’s most comprehensive teen driver safety programs, allows participants to be involved in multiple traffic safety activities. 
Participants with a permit between ages 15 and 17 will have the opportunity to drive through a challenging course with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and experience a variety of driving simulators for free.
The event is in Bismarck on Sept. 25 and is open to 75 students. To register, visit www.NDTeenDrivers.com.
The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Participants will be randomly drawn.

Highway Patrol marks 75th anniversary

The North Dakota Highway Patrol is celebrating its 75th year.

“Through their sacrifice and commitment to excellence, our employees, past and present, have forged this department into the internationally-accredited law enforcement agency that it is today,” Superintendent James Prochniak said in a statement.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol was created by the 1935 Legislative Assembly when the state highway commissioner was given authority to appoint the first Highway Patrol superintendent, according to a news release from the patrol.

In 1936, five men were hired to enforce the laws relating to the protection and use of the public highways in the state. The patrol now has 139 sworn positions.

Notable changes in the past 75 years include a law passed in 1947 making it necessary for all new drivers to take a driver’s examination. The responsibility to conduct these examinations fell to the Highway Patrol.

In 1969, the patrol was given the responsibility of regulating all commercial driver training schools in the state. In 1971, responsibilities were expanded to include the operation of the Law Enforcement Training Center in Bismarck. 

Other agency highlights include developing an agency K-9 program, coordinating the implementation of an AMBER Alert plan for North Dakota, and incorporating department aircraft capabilities into enforcement and search and rescue operations.

Past and present employees will commemorate the anniversary with a banquet in August.

Drunk driving crackdown on I-94

The North Dakota Highway Patrol is joining six other states in a weekend crackdown on impaired driving on Interstate 94.

The I-94 Corridor Traffic Enforcement Project will begin tonight and end early Saturday morning, according to a news release from the patrol. The traffic safety effort involves law enforcement from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Overall, 96 agencies will participate in the program.

During the past three years, 2,805 traffic crashes have occurred on I-94 within North Dakota, the patrol said. Fourteen people died and 386 were injured.

Nearly one-half of North Dakota’s fatal crashes are alcohol related, Highway Patrol Superintendent James Prochniak said.

North Dakota crash statistics show 172 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes between 2007 and 2009.