ST. CLOUD -- As many as 1,000 law enforcement officers, EMS, firefighters and other traffic safety personnel are in St. Cloud this week for the Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety conference.

A big emphasis on the first day is the celebration of getting the hands-free driving law passed last legislative session.  Mike Hanson is the Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. He says we'll look back at the hands-free law as groundbreaking legislation to reduce traffic deaths, much like the .08 DWI law and the primary seatbelt law.

Greg Tikalsky lost his father in 2015 due to a driver who was on her cell phone when she hit him at his mailbox. He says it was those victim-impact stories that swayed lawmakers like Senator Scott Newman to hear and pass the bill...

He was opposed to the law until he heard testimony from a group of people. And, after the testimony he said, I changed my mind.  To know that we played a role in that was very powerful.  To see the governor finally sign it was a pretty emotional day.

Governor Tim Walz will address the more attendees Wednesday at the luncheon and awards ceremony.

The Toward Zero Deaths campaign started in 2003 and is considered a contributor in helping reduce the number of fatal crashes by 42% since then.

There were 381 traffic deaths in Minnesota last year and already 296 so far this year.

The conference wraps up Thursday with an emphasis on teen drivers.

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