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Learning from tragedy

Sept. 19, 2019

Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2018 cover with DPS logo and broken car mirror

Pick a day in 2018. Not an important day – not a birthday or vacation or celebration. Just pick an ordinary, even boring, day. You got up, maybe had some coffee, went to work, spent time with family or friends, had dinner, went to bed. And while you and the rest of us were going about our routine business on that random 2018 day, on average, there were 217 traffic crashes on Minnesota roads, 76 people were injured, and one person died.

To reiterate: On average, one person died every single day in a crash in 2018. And as if the human cost weren’t enough, those crashes racked up an average daily cost to Minnesotans of nearly $5 million. Every. Single. Day.

These are some things you learn when you read through the newly released “Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2018.” It’s the latest edition of an annual summary of traffic crashes. Every year, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) compiles information from law enforcement reports describing the how, why, who and where of crashes on Minnesota roads. This allows us to compare the information to that of other years and spot trends.

For example, we know that there was a 6 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2018 compared to 2017. However, if we compare five-year periods, we see a downward trend. From 2009 to 2013, there was an average of 396 deaths per year, a figure that decreased by 4 percent in the last five years.

The 2018 numbers show that the top factors contributing to traffic fatalities have stayed the same: speed, failing to wear a seat belt, impaired driving, and distractions.

So why bother writing down all this information about traffic crashes and deaths? So that we can learn from it. The data in each edition of Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts helps guide future traffic safety initiatives. The end goal is to change driver behavior and improve traffic safety in Minnesota.

In the end, Crash Facts is a good reminder of things you already know: Buckle up. Use a hands-free device for your phone. Line up a sober ride when you need it. And always drive the speed limit, no faster than the road conditions will allow.

Crash Facts won’t bring back the 381 people who died in traffic crashes in 2018. But it will help us honor the dead and those whose lives have been forever altered by learning from those tragedies.