ST. PAUL — There were 411 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads in 2010, representing a third consecutive annual drop in road fatalities and the lowest count on record since 1944 when 356 were killed. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety annual detailed summary of traffic crashes, Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2010,
is online at dps.mn.gov, click on “Office of Traffic Safety” under “Divisions” (https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/reports-statistics/Pages/default.aspx
The decrease in deaths marks another positive step from the last decade when 550–650 people were killed annually. In 2000 there were 625 deaths; 2001 — 568; 2002 — 657; 2003 — 655; 2004 — 567; 2005 — 559; 2006 — 494; 2007 — 510; 2008 — 455; 2009 — 421.
There were 56.7 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Minnesota last year — less than 1 percent lower than the 56.9 billion in 2009. The state’s 2010 fatality rate per 100 million VMT is less than one person (0.72, the state’s record low), and among the lowest in U.S. The U.S. fatality rate is 1.10.
To-date in 2011, there has been 125 road deaths compared to 156 deaths at this time in 2010. The state’s goal is to record an annual death count of 375 or fewer deaths by 2014.
“The continuing drop in road fatalities is a clear and positive signal that motorists are making safe decisions behind the wheel,” says DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman. “To build on this momentum, we’ll continue our focus of enhanced enforcement and education campaigns to combat the ongoing threats on the roads such as drunk, aggressive and distracted drivers.”
Factors for the Trend of Fewer Deaths
Dohman says many factors have supported the trend of fewer traffic deaths, such as proactive campaigns anchored in the state’s cornerstone traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths. The TZD model employs increased enforcement targeting belt use, speeding and impaired driving; paid media and outreach efforts to educate communities; MnDOT engineering enhancements; and improved emergency medical and trauma response that increase the chances of survival for crash victims, especially in rural communities.
DPS also cites instrumental legislation pieces passed in recent years that have helped reduce road fatalities, such as stronger teen graduated driver’s licensing laws; ban on texting/ emailing/web access and the primary seat belt law and booster seat law requirement for children. On July 1, stronger DWI sanctions are effective, requiring many DWI offenders to have ignition interlocks installed in vehicles in order to have driving privileges.
DPS Office of Traffic Safety Acting Director Donna Berger says that the most important element to the state continuing road safety progress is for drivers to take the task of driving seriously. “Nearly every crash is preventable and preventing these tragic crashes comes down to drivers paying attention and taking simple steps to stay safe behind the wheel,” says Berger. “That includes driving at safe speeds, being patient and never taking the risk of driving impaired.”
Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2010 Highlights
Crash Facts 2010 details crashes by vehicle type, contributing factors, driver age and gender, and occurrence of crashes by county, as well as cities with populations of 2,500 or more.
Crash Facts 2010 reports 74,073 crashes and 31,176 injuries — 1,191 severe. The 411 fatalities reflect motorists (305); motorcyclists (45); pedestrians (36); bicyclists (9); ATV riders (8); moped riders (3); snowmobilers (3); and farm equipment occupants (2).
Geographically, 305 deaths (74 percent) occurred in the 80 counties of greater Minnesota, while 106 deaths (26 percent) occurred in the Twin Cities’ seven-county metro.
The most common factors in 2010 crashes are in order of frequency: driver inattention/distraction; failure to yield right-of-way, and illegal or unsafe speed.
Of the 305 vehicle occupants killed, just 148 were belted; 55 percent of those not belted were ejected. Officials say the primary belt law has helped increase daytime belt compliance to a record-high 92 percent and resulted in fewer unbelted traffic deaths, which the law intended. Officials say it is critical for motorists to insist every passenger is belted to ensure a safe trip.
The 131 alcohol-related deaths in 2010 is a drop from the 141 in 2009 and the lowest count since 1984, when this statistic was first measured. However, impaired driving is still a factor in one-third of all deaths, matching historical trends. Last year, 29,918 motorists were arrested for DWI, a 9 percent decrease from 2009 (32, 756). One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI. Officials say drivers must plan ahead for a safe and sober ride to avoid drinking and driving.
There were 45 rider deaths, down 15 percent from 53 deaths in 2009. A likely factor for the drop is that the recent surge of boomer-age riders has continued to become more experienced and less likely to crash. Still, motorcycle riders ages 40–64 accounted for 64 percent of rider deaths in 2010. Other factors for the drop include rider training programs (more than 25,000 riders took courses in the last three years); outreach efforts; and enforcement. DPS reports ridership is at an all-time high, underscoring the need for rider training, protective gear use, and for motorists to be alert.
Teenagers (2010 Crash Facts includes a new “Teen Driver” section)
There were 41 teenage deaths (ages 15–19) in 2010, a slight increase from 38 deaths in 2009. However, teenage traffic fatalities have been decreasing dramatically in the past decade. There were 78 teen (15-19) deaths in 2004. Officials encourage parents to set limits for teens, reinforce state laws, and continue to monitor and train teen drivers after licensure in a variety of conditions and road types.
There were 36 pedestrian deaths in 2010, a 12 percent decrease from 2009 (41). Of the pedestrians killed, 34 percent had alcohol-concentration levels of 0.08 or higher. Officials say pedestrians need to cross where it’s safe and motorists must stop for crossing pedestrians.
The nine bicyclist deaths in 2010 were a decrease from 10 fatalities in 2009. Officials say bicyclists should plan a safe route, wear a helmet, reflective gear, and obey traffic signals and signs.