ST. PAUL – Texting while driving, reaching for something that dropped on the floor, or adjusting GPS or other electronics. These types of distractions played a role in the 21-percent climb in distracted driving-related fatalities in 2015 from the previous year, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS)
Traffic fatalities reached 411 last year in Minnesota, compared with 361 in 2014, a 14 percent increase. Of those, distracted driving was listed as a contributing factor in 74 deaths in 2015.
Last year, 181,663 people were involved in some type of crash; that’s equivalent to the populations of Duluth and Plymouth combined.
The data is included in the new Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2015 report that is published DPS-OTS each year. “Crash Facts” is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports. It describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved. The information guides future traffic safety initiatives that will lead to safer roads and changed driver behavior.
“Reducing traffic crashes and the tragic loss of life on Minnesota roads is an ongoing challenge in our state,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “The data mean more than numbers. They represent mothers, fathers, children and loved ones, some of whom will never come home. We need to stand together to make sure all drivers are focused 100 percent on the road, and speak up if we see dangerous driving behaviors. Together we can save lives.”
July 4 Deadliest Major Holiday
As Minnesotans head to the lake to visit friends and family, or go to a parade this weekend, it’s important to make wise choices behind the wheel as July 4 is the deadliest major holiday on Minnesota roads for drunk driving-related fatalities.
In the last five years (2011-2015), 44 percent of all July 4 fatal traffic crashes were drunk driving related, followed by Thanksgiving (36 percent) and Christmas (29 percent).
On average, the July 4 holiday period includes:
- 4 fatalities
- 421 DWI arrests
- 412 crashes
- 235 injuries
To keep motorists safe, troopers, officers and deputies will be looking to take drunk drivers off the road by conducting extra DWI patrols this weekend in Minnesota’s top 25 most dangerous drunk driving counties.
“Most people are getting the message to plan ahead when going to bars and establishments,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “But sometimes when we are gathering with friends and family, people forget to designate a sober driver. This holiday, plan ahead, and if you see an impaired driver, speak up and find them a safe ride home.”
Breakdown of 2015 Traffic Deaths and Injuries
While recommitting to safe driving habits in 2016, it’s important to look back at why so many lives were lost last year.
The 411 fatalities included:
- 285 motor vehicle occupants, compared with 278 in 2014.
- 61 motorcyclists, compared with 46 in 2014, and the highest number since 2008.
- 41 pedestrians, compared with 17 in 2014.
- 10 bicyclists, compared with five in 2014.
There were 29,981 total injuries, of which 1,127 were severe.
Drunk driving-related fatalities continued to be the number one contributing factor in Minnesota motor vehicle deaths in 2015. Numbers show both drunk driving and distracted driving-related fatalities rose last year, while speed-related deaths and lack of seat belt use fatalities decreased.
Contributing factors include:
- Speed – 78 deaths, resulting in a 17 percent decrease.
- Lack of seat belt – 91 deaths, resulting in a 14 percent decrease.
- Distracted driving – 74 deaths, resulting in a 21 percent increase.
- Drunk driving-related – 95 deaths, resulting an 8 percent increase.
The Alcohol Factor
Drunk driving continues to be a major issue on Minnesota roads, as 25,027 drivers were arrested for DWI in 2015. Those numbers are equivalent to nearly three DWI arrests per hour.
The numbers also reveal:
- 137 alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol-related is defined as any physical evidence or officer perception of the presence of alcohol in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist.
- 95 drunk driving fatalities. Drunk driving-related is defined as any driver with a BAC of .08 or above.
- 2,203 alcohol-related injuries.
- One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI.
2015 Crashes By Weather Conditions
While many believe winter driving presents the most dangerous driving conditions, fatal crashes with snow present represent just 10 out of the 375 fatal crashes (3 percent) last year.
Weather Conditions Fatal Crashes Killed Injured
The state’s cornerstone traffic safety program, Toward Zero Deaths, has helped significantly over the past decade, with elements that include:
- Increased enforcement coupled with educational efforts and media campaigns.
- MnDOT road engineering enhancements.
- Improved emergency medical and trauma response.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.
Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics
- Law enforcement handed out 7,233 seat belt and 213 child restraint citations during the most recent Click It or Ticket extra enforcement campaign.
- More than 30 Minnesota organizations in April joined the Department of Public Safety and statewide law enforcement in calling for employees and all drivers to choose safety over texting and to eliminate distracted driving.
Police officers, sheriffs’ deputies and state patrol troopers participated in the April extra enforcement distracted driving campaign, handing out 972 citations to drivers for texting while driving. That’s up from 909 citations during last year’s campaign.
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