​Summer should be fun, not tragic

July 19, 2021

Vehicles on a metro area freeway

It's mid-July, the height of summer. If you're not headed up to the cabin on a road trip, you're probably driving the kids to the pool or the park—and so is everyone else. That's why we call the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day the 100 most-traveled days on Minnesota roads. But all that extra vehicle travel can lead to more crashes and more deaths.

Halfway through the most traveled days of the year, preliminary numbers show 76 people have died on Minnesota roads so far. That compares to an average of 65 people dying during the first half of the summer during the same time period (2017-2020).

At this rate, we're going to see a repeat of last summer's horrific number of traffic deaths. Preliminary numbers show the 109 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2020 yielded 158 traffic fatalities out of 394 total for the year. That means 40 percent of traffic deaths occurred during 29 percent of the year.

This year, speed continues to be the leading factor in traffic fatalities, with 21 speed-related deaths so far during the 100 most traveled days. Speed took the place of impaired driving in causing the largest number of traffic deaths in the summer, but impaired driving, distraction and lack of seat belt use are also playing major roles in dangerous driving behavior.

And that's what's really heartbreaking about traffic fatalities: Most of them are preventable. You can go the speed limit. You can find a sober driver. You can put on your seat belt. You can put down your phone.

It's not just about what you do behind the wheel, though. Your voice is important to your family and friends, so when you see the driver doing something unsafe, speak up. Ask them to put the phone down. Make sure everyone is buckled up before the car moves. Assure them that being a few minutes late won't matter. And if they've had a few drinks, offer them a safe ride home or find someone else who can.

To keep the roads safe, law enforcement across the state are currently conducting extra speed patrols in July, and extra DWI patrols will be in effect Aug. 20 through Sept. 6.

No one climbs into their car to drive to a barbecue or go camping and thinks, “I'm not going to make it there. I'll probably get in a car crash and die." But it happens all too often. So if you keep in mind that your final destination is never guaranteed, it may just help you remember to buckle that seat belt, put down that phone and eliminate other distractions, find a sober ride, and go the speed limit. Because summer shouldn't end in tragedy.​