Families of Minnesota traffic crash victims can memorialize their lost loved ones on a new website, www.MinnesotaCrashVictims.org. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety developed and oversees the site. DPS officials believe the memorial site is the first of its kind in the nation.

Officials say an important component of the site is to support crash victims’ families by providing a place to present an intimate and meaningful remembrance of a loved one — while the primary goal is to educate Minnesotans about traffic safety, and the stories and causes behind deadly crashes.

“These are the faces behind the statistics. These are the reasons and reminders to drive safely,” says Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. “The personal stories resonate with visitors far greater than stats and numbers. This human element can help influence safe driving behavior.”

Each year in Minnesota, more than 400 people are killed in crashes and more than 30,000 are injured. More than half of the motorists killed each year are not buckled up. Annually, alcohol-related crashes account for more than one-third of the fatalities while distracted driving is a contributing factor in at least 20 percent of all crashes.

When a family creates a memorial, DPS confirms the fatality and ensures the accuracy of the crash description through its records. The site requires families to enter victim crash details to enhance the education component, such as seat belt or helmet use, and impaired or distracted driving.

The site allows families to connect with others who have entered a memorial, and gives visitors an opportunity to post photos and offer remembrances in a victim’s guestbook.

“We want families which are bearing the traumatic loss of a loved to have a place to share the memories of that person,” says Marti. “Through this site, we can keep their stories and message alive, and prevent future crashes.”

The crash victims’ website is a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to sculpt a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

To-date, there have been 35 traffic deaths in Minnesota in 2011 compared to 39 at this time in 2010. The preliminary 2010 death total is 407.