For speed-related traffic deaths, 2021 looks tragically familiar. But you can help.
March 15, 2021
It's been a whole year since the world shut down. Businesses changed their working model or shut down altogether in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Schools closed. People stayed home as much as they could. Minnesota roads were all but empty.
Less traffic meant fewer fatal crashes and less speeding, right? Nope. Instead, some selfish drivers took the speed limit as a mere suggestion and treated Minnesota roads as their own personal speedway, some in excess of 100 mph. Perhaps they thought, “The roads are empty! What could it hurt?"
It certainly hurt the 120 motorists who died in speed-related crashes in 2020. It hurt the 120 families who, in the midst of a pandemic, also had to grieve the untimely death of a loved one in a violent traffic crash. It hurt the first responders and medical professionals who were already stretched thin by the constant carnage of COVID-19.
And like the pandemic, speeding and resulting crashes didn't stop in 2021. In fact, this year's crash numbers outpace last year's: As of March 12, 21 people have already died so far this year in speed-related crashes. Overall, preliminary numbers show 59 people have lost their lives on Minnesota roads in 2021 compared with 44 this time last year. In all, preliminary numbers show 395 traffic fatalities in 2020.
If this sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, it is. But there's good news, too: We have the power to end this. But it will take all of us. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS), in collaboration with the Minnesota departments of Health and Transportation, is implementing an extra enforcement and public outreach campaign.
The effort includes the State Patrol, police and sheriff departments around the state. In short, if you're speeding, expect to be stopped. State Patrol troopers already cited 13,673 drivers for speeding through March 4, compared with 11,318 tickets written at this time last year.
We know that laws and enforcement can help change dangerous choices and prevent tragedy. We know that education and awareness influence positive behaviors as well. The campaign includes social media, media relations and advertising through radio, billboards and online across Minnesota and to diverse communities.
Ultimately, it's up to each one of us to slow down and drive smart. Obeying the speed limit, finding a sober ride, wearing a seat belt, and putting away distractions will help stop tragic crashes from occurring on Minnesota's roads. It will help stop 2021 from turning out the way 2020 did.