It was a deadly summer for drivers on Minnesota roads, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety.
There were 152 deaths between Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, which represent about 60% of all traffic fatalities in 2020, according to preliminary figures from the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. In that same time frame last year, 136 people were killed.
A total of 255 people have died on Minnesota roads so far this year, compared to 246 this time last year.
The high numbers come despite a decrease in traffic during the spring and early summer as the state was placed under a shelter-in-place order as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our traffic volume was significantly lower at the beginning of summer. People weren't traveling, things weren't open but as summer went on, people started to travel more,” Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Troy Christianson said. “We started to see and increase in injury crashes and fatal crashes throughout the state.”
Summer is also typically a time when drivers hit the gas pedal harder and speeds increase. Christianson said in Minnesota State Patrol District 2100, which covers 11 counties in southeastern Minnesota, 53 citations were issued to drivers going faster than 100 mph. Preliminary data from the department shows that 50 of the 152 deaths were speed-related, compared to 30 in 2019.
Preliminary data on the summer’s 152 deaths show that:
At least eight are known to be distraction-related, compared with 10 in 2019.
40 are alcohol-related, compared with 42 in 2019.
36 were not wearing their seat belts, compared with 22 in 2019.
36 were motorcyclists, compared with 34 last year. Of the 36 motorcyclists who died, 27 were not wearing a helmet, compared with 23 in 2019.
14 were pedestrians, compared with seven in 2019.
Four were bicyclists, compared with five in 2019.
One possible bright spot? There were 6,812 DWI arrests this summer compared with 8,491 during summer 2019.
“It’s still a high number, but any type of reduction is good,” Christianson said.
It is hard to know for certain what drove the decrease in DWI arrests but it could be due in part to the pandemic causing a closure of bars or restaurants.
Looking at the overall numbers, Christian said “we need to keep educating people of the dangers of unsafe speed, lack of seat belts, driving while impaired and distracted driving.”
“These crashes can happen to anyone,” he said. “Make the right choice of avoiding these so you are not in an injury crash or possibly a fatal crash.”