Douglas County commissioners proclaim April as 'Distracted Driving Awareness Month'

According to the Office of Traffic Safety, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one out of every seven crashes in Minnesota each year, which results in at least 40 deaths and 195 serious injuries.

This is an ad that will be used during the month of April for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Thirteen people died on Douglas County roads in 2021.

That is the highest number of crash-related deaths in more than 20 years, according to Crystal Hoepner, health educator with Horizon Public Health who heads up the Douglas County Toward Zero Death Safe Communities Coalition.

Hoepner shared that information and more with Douglas County commissioners at their Tuesday, April 5, regular meeting. She also asked for approval of the Distracted Driving Month proclamation, which she received with a unanimous vote.

The proclamation names the month of April as the “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

It also states that according to the Office of Traffic Safety, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one out of every seven crashes in Minnesota each year, which results in at least 40 deaths and 195 serious injuries.


Douglas County commissioners approved this proclamation at the Tuesday, April 5, 2022, regular board meeting.

The Safe Communities Coalition supports efforts that help raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving – particularly with teenagers – in order to both reduce the number of distracted driving crashes and better educate drivers.

Hoepner said that during the month of April, more than 80 law enforcement agencies will be helping in the efforts to educate and to also enforce laws regarding distracted driving.

Texting, emailing, accessing the internet or touching a wireless device while driving, which includes being stopped in traffic, is illegal in Minnesota.

Commissioner Heather Larson said she has noticed a lot more people on their cell phones in recent months and asked what can be done about that.

Hoepner said that people should speak up and share their concerns. She said if people see other people using their cell phones while driving, they should take note of the vehicle and try to get a license plate number. Then, they should find someplace safe to stop and call law enforcement.

Crystal Hoepner

If people are in a vehicle where the driver is using a cell phone while driving, they should again, speak up, and voice their concerns to the driver, Hoepner said.

“People need to put their phone down,” she said, adding that they also need to wear their seat belts, get a sober driver if needed, slow down and pay attention.

Law enforcement officials, members of the Safe Communities Coalition and now, the Douglas County commissioners, strongly urge the citizens and businesses of Douglas County to observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month by practicing safe driving behaviors and pledge to drive distraction-free.


In other action

Douglas County commissioners approved the following other items:

  • Courthouse conference room fee schedule, annual increases, policies/procedures (not to include after hours) for the Douglas County Administration building. People can now rent conference room meeting space at the admin building. 
  • Increase of fee for public fingerprinting costs. The fee is now $20, an increase of $10. Because of enhanced technology – results can now be accessible in about 15 minutes versus from one to two weeks, according to Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen – there was an added cost to the sheriff’s office. Wolbersen said fingerprinting is offered for an array of employment and state requirements, such as foster care and adoption, financial loan officer license, nursing students, out of state employment, school teachers, county employees and permit to carry license. Wolbersen said Minnesota law does not require fingerprinting, but there are some states that do and for some people, like people who move away in the winter, they have permits in states that require fingerprints and the sheriff’s office provides that service. 
  • Donation of $250 from the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association to be used for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Honor Guard. 
  • Acceptance of $27,466 from the Emergency Management Performance Grant to be used to offset the cost of the Emergency Management Department. 
  • Contract with Kimley-Horn for the design of the roundabout near Pilot truck stop at the intersection of County Road 45 and County Road 46. 
  • Change order for the Lake Brophy Visitor Center, which is a savings of $12,000 for the project. 
  • Donation of $15,000 from the Alexandria Kiwanis Club to be used at Lake Brophy County Park. 
  • Preliminary plat of Bobmike Meadow, a four-lot plat in Holmes City Township. 
  • Preliminary plat of Berns Addition, a one-lot plat in LaGrand Township.
  • Preliminary plat of Hertwig Point First Addition, an 18-lot plat in Miltona Township.
  • Preliminary plat of Longview Estates additional lots in Osakis Township.
  • Conditional use permit to Justin Hvezda to allow for a tractor repair and restoration business with outdoor storage and sign in Moe Township. 
  • The 2021 Douglas County annual Feedlot Report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In a letter to Mark Koep, feedlot officer for Douglas County, the MPCA determined that Douglas County satisfactorily met 17 out of an applicable 17 – or 100% – of non-inspections minimum program requirements and also satisfactorily conducted 23 inspections of the 322 feedlot required to be registered for an inspection rate of 7.1%. The MPCA commended the county for its work in 2021. 
Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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