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Officials hope to make metro's deadly Highway 12 fatality-free for a year


Can one of the Twin Cities' deadliest highways be made fatality-free for a year?

That's the goal Minnesota public safety officials have set for both law enforcement and drivers on the 38-mile stretch of Highway 12 that runs through the west metro.

According to a news release, the Highway 12 Safety Coalition, a project of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety that combines "experts and resources from both Hennepin and Wright Counties," is challenging motorists to go 12 months without a fatal crash.

Such a goal would be a dramatic reversal of Highway 12's current record; from 2010 to 2014, 16 lives were lost in a dozen accidents. In August of 2015, a head-on collision killed three more people, the release says.

This part of the highway has the Twin Cities' highest fatal crash rate compared with similar highways.

In all, there were 811 accidents over the past five years, the release indicates.

Officials previously tried to curb this trend with tactics such as rumble strips, but the fatalities occurred anyway, DPS says. Now, their efforts will focus on keeping drivers aware.

According to the Star Tribune, crews have installed "bright yellow signs" on the highway informing drivers of the safety campaign.

Additionally, the paper said, authorities will increase their enforcement of traffic laws in the area, though officials admit "we can not cite, ticket or arrest our way out of this problem," and that drivers need to cut down on distractions – like using smartphones.

The campaign, which focuses on the next 12 months, comes with a name and a hashtag – #12for12. The effort was officially unveiled at a Monday press conference at West Hennepin Public Safety in Maple Plain, where the sister of one of the victims lost in the August crash shared her story.

"What happened to Chelsea (Langhans) could happen to you," Liz Squire is quoted as saying.

"It will take everyone's help to reach our goal of zero fatalities," Minnesota Department of Transportation engineer Scott McBride said.

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