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Oct. 12, 2021

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Eleven Minnesota traffic safety leaders receive Toward Zero Deaths Awards

Winners will be recognized during online State TZD conference, Oct. 13–Nov. 17

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Eleven people and one organization will be officially recognized by the Minnesota departments of health, public safety and transportation with Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths Awards during the 2021 TZD state conference, held virtually Oct. 13 through Nov. 17. The TZD Awards are presented annually to recognize significant achievements that help save lives and reduce life-changing injuries on Minnesota roads. Road fatalities have decreased by 40 percent since the TZD program began in 2003.

The awards are given to individuals and organizations in Minnesota that show excellence in TZD’s emphasis areas of enforcement, emergency medical and trauma services, education and engineering. They have shown their leadership and creative capacities to improve traffic safety throughout the state and build partnerships.      
This year’s awards will be presented online, on different days, during individual sessions of the online statewide TZD conference. About 1,000 peopleincluding traffic safety professionals, educators, engineers, scientists, attorneys, judges, law enforcement, volunteers and advocatesattended last year’s online TZD conference. With this year’s conference again online, every session is open to the public.

TZD Award winners represent many regions of the state
The list of 2021 TZD award winners includes a high school student, nurses, advocates and traffic safety professionals. The winners are:
Twin Cities Metro area award winners:

  • Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award – Colonel Matt Langer, Minnesota State Patrol
  • Distinguished Public Leadership Award – Paul Aasen, Minnesota Safety Council President
  • Enforcement Star Award  – Sargent Josh Moore, St. Paul Police Department
  • Engineering Star Award  – Diane Langenbach, South Area Engineer for MnDOT’s Metro District

Greater Minnesota award winners:

  • Media Award – Ken Thomas and Tess Taylor, WJJY-FM, Hubbard Radio, Baxter
  • Education Award – Crystal Hoepner, Alexandria
  • Emergency and Trauma Services Star Award  – Tim Cook, Thief River Falls
  • Child Passenger Safety Star Award – Bridget Nez, Morton
  • Traffic Safety Innovation Award – Minnesota Emergency Nurses Association, Minnesota State Council
  • Emerging Leader – Avery Malone, Detroit Lakes

Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award
The Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award recognizes an individual who has shown exceptional leadership in efforts to improve traffic safety in Minnesota, build partnerships, and mentor others in the field. This individual will also have demonstrated a long-term passion, dedication, and commitment to reducing the number of deaths and injuries resulting from crashes on Minnesota roads.

  • Colonel Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, is receiving this year’s award for his unwavering commitment and support to traffic safety and saving lives on Minnesota roadways. Col. Langer’s distinguished career started in 1999. He served as a Crash Reconstructionist, and Public Information Officer before being appointed chief in January 2015. Col. Langer has committed his career to saving lives on Minnesota roads. He is a calm and committed leader, partner, and mentor who is dedicated to his agency, his staff, traffic crash victims and their families, and the citizens of our state. Col. Langer’s support of the TZD program has been steadfast throughout his years of service, and he continues to emphasize the importance of educating motorists on dangerous driving behaviors, so we can one day reach zero fatalities on our road.

Distinguished Public Leadership
The Distinguished Public Leadership Award was established to recognize public leaders who—through their vision, leadership, and knowledge—have influenced traffic safety policy directions that benefit society. 

  • Paul Aasen, President of the Minnesota Safety Council, continuously works with hundreds of people and organizations to improve Minnesota’s traffic safety culture through legislative action. As president of the Minnesota Safety Council, Paul was instrumental in helping pass hands-free legislation and played a critical role in helping pass the Work Zone Speed Management study bill, among other successes. He knows the intricate details of the legislative process and has helped shape traffic safety policy that benefits all Minnesotans.

TZD Media Award
The Toward Zero Deaths Media Award is given to recognize an individual or organization in the media that has demonstrated excellence in raising public awareness about traffic safety. Recipients have gone beyond the typical news story and shown a commitment to reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Minnesota.

  • TZD recognizes WJJY-FM’s Ken Thomas and Tess Taylor (Hubbard Radio Baxter) for their support of local partnerships that educate and influence listeners about traffic safety. For years they—along with Hubbard Radio—have helped develop fresh and relevant traffic safety public service messages that feature local leaders, athletes, and traffic safety partners. Thomas and Taylor have also helped recruit and record famous athletes who donate their time and voice to support safe driving messages at no cost to TZD partners. Other efforts have included broadcasting live from school buses. In addition, they dedicate a half hour every month to a current traffic safety topic.

Traffic Safety Innovation Award                                       
The Traffic Safety Innovation Award recognizes organizations for new or creative traffic safety solutions that help save lives on Minnesota roads. The award is given for work on specific actions, initiatives, programs, best practices, marketing campaigns, partnerships, or products.

  • The Minnesota Emergency Nurses Association, Minnesota State Council, is recognized for its efforts to introduce the Driver Orientation Screen for Cognitive Impairment screening tool to Minnesota law enforcement officers and agencies. The DOSCI tool, along with education about older drivers, helps officers determine whether a driver is cognitively impaired or too disoriented to be allowed to continue driving. The tool has made its way into at least 50 law enforcement agencies, filling a training gap in older driver safety awareness education.

The Minnesota ENA consists of more than 740 members across the state and promotes safe practice, safe care, community safety, advocacy and injury prevention. The Minnesota ENA State Council is eligible to apply for state grants and, by collaborating with the state of Minnesota and TZD, is able to carry out a variety of patient safety initiatives related to injury prevention.

Emerging Leader Award
The Emerging Leader Award was established to recognize leaders who are students that display excellence in increasing traffic safety awareness. Recipients have demonstrated creativity, vision, leadership, and organizational skills, as well as the ability to successfully motivate and influence their peers in efforts to move toward zero deaths on Minnesota roads.

  • TZD recognizes Avery Malone, Detroit Lakes, for her efforts to improve traffic safety through her leadership with the Thief River Falls Key Club. During the 2020–2021 school year, Avery’s family moved, but she chose to continue to attend her school and Key Club remotely. At a time when many students were experiencing Zoom fatigue, Avery continued to advance the work of Teen TZD and TZD in the Thief River Falls area. She helped plan and organize the final school day’s visiting traffic safety “celebrities,” coordinated work on the Teen TZD website and engaged fellow students to continue planning TZD efforts.

TZD Star Awards
TZD Star Awards recognize individuals and organizations in Minnesota that show excellence in TZD’s emphasis areas of enforcement, emergency medical and trauma services, education, engineering, child passenger safety and judicial/court systems. They have shown their leadership and creative capacities in efforts to improve traffic safety throughout the state and build partnerships.

Child Passenger Safety Star Award

  • Bridget Nez, Morton, is recognized for her efforts to provide car seats and Child Passenger Safety education for the Lower Sioux Indian Community in southwest Minnesota. The community has a great need for car seats and CPS technicians. As a family advocate for the Lower Sioux Early Head Start program, Bridget is a dedicated advocate for growth in those areas, works with families in need to get them car seats while also collaborating with local agencies to train car seat technicians. She has also been essential in ensuring families feel comfortable asking for these services.

Education Star Award

  • Crystal Hoepner, Alexandria, is the Grant County TZD Safe Roads Coalition coordinator. She is recognized for her creativity and expertise implementing traffic safety efforts in local communities. Hoepner is a health educator with Horizon Public Health, uses social media messaging to educate drivers and organizes many events at local schools, health fairs and other public venues. She was instrumental in the highly successful “Rural Safety Day” at the 2019 Grant County Fair. The event addressed topics such as agriculture equipment, bicycle, and seat belt safety. Hoepner helped organize the many presenters, and, upon her recommendation, the event will be held annually.

Emergency Medical Services Star Award

  • Tim Cook, Thief River Falls, is recognized for his traffic safety efforts with the Pennington County Safe Roads Coalition. As a lead paramedic for Sanford Ambulance in Thief River Falls, Tim is often the first to volunteer to represent EMS/trauma at any traffic safety public event, contributing to the conversation and offering innovative ideas. Tim contributes to the Teen TZD program, State TZD Conference and other events. He has participated in traffic enforcement ride-a-longs to better understand traffic safety, is community-minded and always willing to support TZD in every aspect.

Enforcement Star Award

  • Sgt. Josh Moore, St. Paul Police Department, is recognized for his efforts to improve public safety in the city of St. Paul. In his role with the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit for the St. Paul Police Department, Josh manages the officers in his unit, fields traffic inquiries, and assists on traffic injury and fatal crash investigations. He also helps schedule and manage all speed enforcement, distracted driving, pedestrian safety, seatbelt, and Ted Foss move-over law TZD grant-funded events. Moore has managed more than 350 officer shifts, resulting in more than 3,600 traffic stops since October 2020.

Engineering Star Award

  • Diane Langenbach, South Area Engineer for MnDOT’s Metro District, is recognized for her efforts to reduce severe crashes at expressway intersections in Scott and Carver Counties. Langenbach served as the project manager who successfully led the Highway 212 reduced-conflict intersection project in Cologne – one of the first “RCIs” installed in the state. That project remains one of MnDOT’s most impactful safety projects. Langenbach’s communication with the community, local officials and other stakeholders was critical for helping them understand the safety benefits as well as the tradeoffs of the project, and for moving the project forward.

The Minnesota TZD program is the state’s cornerstone traffic safety program, with an interdisciplinary partnership led by the state departments of health, transportation and public safety. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.
Learn more about TZD at minnesotatzd.org.