FOLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — A series of fatal crashes along a rural highway has several law enforcement agencies joining forces.
Seven people have died in the last two years in accidents on Highway 23 in Foley, just east of St. Cloud.
The police chiefs in Foley and Milaca, as well as the sheriffs of Benton County and Mille Lacs County and the State Patrol are now combining efforts.
They are working to improve the safety of an area where fatal accidents are occurring far too frequently.
Put quite simply, enough is enough — that’s what these sheriffs and police chiefs are saying. They’re talking about a 15 mile stretch of Highway 23 that is a two-lane highway.
In just the last month, there were two fatal accidents involving vehicles that crossed the center line, causing head-on collisions.
The stretch of Highway 23 between Foley and Milaca is where drivers seem to make bad decisions, sometimes resulting in dire consequences.
“I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years and it still is very disheartening to hear about a fatality or roll up on that scene and know that somewhere you are going to have to stop and break the news to a family that their loved one has died,” Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck said.
On Jan. 31, a drunk driver crossed the center line and crashed into an SUV carrying 35-year-old Lindsay Cardinal and her three children. She was killed.
A week later, and three blocks down the road, another driver was in a head-on crash that killed him.
“A lot of it is the technology we have now, too. They are not paying attention to the roadway,” Foley Police Chief Katie McMillin said.
Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck and Foley Police Chief Katie McMillin are analyzing data on Highway 23 crashes. They found speeding is also a problem. The speed limit was recently increased to 60.
“People see that increased speed limit and there are going to be some that try to push that. I’ve talked to people that drive that road and they’re concerned that there’s people going 70, 75 miles an hour,” Sheriff Heck said.
Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another problem.
“Anytime you have somebody getting behind the wheel and they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, we want to make sure we are there to intercept that. That is definitely going to be a focus of what we are doing out here,” the sheriff said.
The strategy they are looking at right now is to greatly increase the presence of patrols, with officers and deputies from all five law enforcement agencies. That high visibility could be a deterrent to bad decisions, but it may also allow officers to identify impaired or inattentive drivers more quickly.