ST. PAUL — For the first time in five years, the number of traffic deaths increased in Minnesota as 378 people were killed in 2012, according to preliminary reports from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. In 2011, 368 people died in crashes on Minnesota roads.
DPS projects the final total — available in early summer as additional crash reports are submitted — to be around 390, 6 percent above the 2011 figure. Despite the increase, 2012 will be the second safest year (behind 2011) since 1944 (356 deaths). Officials expect common traffic safety issues will again be the primary contributing factors for the 2012 deaths: drunk driving, seat belt non-use, speeding and distracted driving.
Traffic safety officials say a warmer winter to start the year — leading to faster, unsafe speeds — and a spike in motorcyclist fatalities were the main factors for the increase in deaths. An early spring led to a longer and deadlier riding season as 53 motorcyclists were killed, a 26 percent increase from 42 deaths in 2011.
“We can’t forget the victims lost in these crashes, they are the reasons and reminders we all need to commit to safe driving behaviors in 2013,” says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director.
In the last decade, the state’s annual traffic deaths have trended downward: in 2002 there were 657 deaths; 2003 — 655; 2004 — 567; 2005 — 559; 2006 — 494; 2007 — 510; 2008 — 455; 2009 — 421; 2010 — 411; 2011 — 368.
In 2011, Minnesota had among the lowest and safest death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the nation at 0.65.
2012 Preliminary Death Results
The 378 deaths include:
- 281 motorists — down from the final 283 in 2011.
- 53 motorcyclists — up from 42 in 2011.
- 38 pedestrians — down from 40 in 2011.
- Six bicyclists — up from five in 2011.
The deadliest months in 2012 were September (48), August (42) and October (38). The safest months were April (19), January (20) and March (23).
2012 Preliminary DWI Results
- 26,628 motorists were arrested for DWI (preliminary). There were 29,918 DWI arrests in 2011. The preliminary DWI arrest count will grow as alcohol-concentration data is finalized. Crash data regarding drunk driving deaths will be reported later this year. Each year, drunk driving-related crashes account for more than one-third of the state’s total death count. In 2011, there were 111 drunk driving-related deaths.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of 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 (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. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety initiative. 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 trauma response.
Office of Traffic Safety highlights
- Preliminary DWI information indicates at least 300 people were arrested for DWI on New Year’s Eve.
- DWI arrest results from a statewide DWI enforcement effort will be announced next week.
- OTS is investing federal grants totaling more than $7 million to 317 law enforcement agencies and community partner groups for enforcement and education campaigns, Oct. 2012¬–Sept. 30, 2013.
- The 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report notes 368 traffic deaths for the year, the lowest since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction in deaths from a decade ago.
- More than 4,000 DWI offenders are using ignition interlock to benefit road safety and ensure legal, sober driving.