With a little less than a month to go until the new year, the state has reached a grim milestone -- 364 people have died on Minnesota roads.
That number, reported on Dec. 1, is equal to the number of deaths on Minnesota roads in all of 2019, according to preliminary figures from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. The number will likely grow as a 10-year average shows that 30 people die on Minnesota roads in December.
“There are names behind the 364 traffic deaths. They are loved ones; individuals who never made it home while traveling on our roads," Matt Langer, Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said in a statement. "Troopers know all too well how preventable these deaths are. By buckling up, slowing down, putting the distractions away and line up a sober ride, we can significantly reduce fatalities on our roads.”
The state's shelter-in-place order did nothing to dampen the deaths on Minnesota roadways. The Minnesota Department of Transportation documents a decrease in traffic volumes after the stay-at-home order went into effect on March 27. Twenty people were killed in crashes in April and 28 people were killed in crashes in May.
Nearly a third of the traffic fatalities, 107, were speed-related compared with 68 speed-related fatalities at this time last year. Ninety-two fatalities involved someone not wearing a seat belt compared with 66 last year.
“With fewer vehicles on the road during the 2020 pandemic, the loss of life on Minnesota roads is beyond disappointing; it is tragic and completely preventable. While most Minnesotans are driving smart, there are a number of people who have used the lighter traffic as a license to disobey laws," said Mike Hanson, director of the state's Office of Traffic Safety. "The rising number of speed violations and the decline in seat belt usage from 2019 to 2020 cannot be ignored. We grieve with all of those experiencing an empty chair at the table for the holidays and we beg each and every one of you to start understanding the consequences of dangerous driving behaviors.”