Honor the dead by planning ahead

Jan. 21, 2021

A car crash scene with two troopers doing crash reconstruction

Most of us would probably like to simply forget 2020 ever existed. The temptation is to wipe the slate clean and move on. But if we do that, we risk not learning. And if we forget the nearly 400 people who died on Minnesota roads in 2020, we dishonor their memories. Instead, we remember each one of them, and keep talking about how and why they died so that we can prevent more tragedies.

Preliminary reports show there were 398 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads in 2020, compared with 364 in 2019. One of those was a 33-year-old man who left his car after crashing into a row of trees, only to be hit by a vehicle as he tried to cross the divided highway. It is suspected that he was under the influence of alcohol. He joins at least 108 other people who were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2020.

Or consider the 42-year-old man who died when his car left the snow-and ice-covered interstate and rolled several times. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt. Neither were at least 101 others who died in traffic crashes in 2020.

Distracted driving continues to be an issue too, with 30 people dying in distraction-related crashes in 2020.

But the cause of the most traffic crashes in 2020 may surprise you: speed. Preliminary numbers show 118 people died in speed-related crashes, the most since 2008 (125). Compare that to 72 in 2019, and you can see how much the problem has grown. In fact, Minnesota state troopers wrote 535 more citations to drivers in 2020 traveling more than 100 mph than they did in 2019. That’s a 100 percent increase.

The good news is that these numbers don’t have to continue into 2021. We can honor the memories of those who died on Minnesota roads last year by planning better this year. Any time you’re thinking about getting behind the wheel, drive smart and plan ahead:

  • Will you be drinking? Find a sober ride ahead of time.
  • Check the road conditions and make sure it’s safe to drive.
  • Buckle your seat belt, and speak up if others don’t.
  • Leave in plenty of time to get to your destination and don’t speed. Trying to save a few minutes off your drive isn’t worth causing a crash.
  • Set up maps and music on your phone before you start the engine. Wait until you arrive at your destination to eat any food you pick up along the way. And remember, Minnesota is a hands-free cell phone state.

It’s hard to look back on the tough year that was 2020. But if you look forward and plan ahead, you can make the road safer for yourself and everyone else on Minnesota roads.