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Office of Traffic Safety

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Rural Driving

Minnesota's Most Dangerous Roads 

The most dangerous place to drive in Minnesota is not the busy interstates and downtowns of the Twin Cities — it’s in rural areas. Each year, 70 percent of Minnesota’s total traffic fatalities occur on rural roads.

  • The 80 counties in greater Minnesota represent just half of Minnesota’s population, yet accounted for 65 percent of traffic fatalities in 2019. 
  • In 2019: 
    • 238 of the 364 traffic deaths were outside of the Twin Cities metro.
    • 58  percent of all impaired related traffic fatalities occurred in the 80 counties in Greater Minnesota.
    • 61 percent of all speed-related traffic fatalities occurred outside the Twin Cities.
    • 76 percent of all distracted driving traffic fatalities occurred in Greater Minnesota.
  • A big reason for this is the prevalence of two-lane roads: in 2019, 74 (60%) of the 125 fatalities on County Highways took place in Greater Minnesota. 

Why Are Rural Roads Deadly?

There are many factors why rural communities absorb most of the Minnesota’s traffic fatalities:

  • Traveling at higher speeds.
  • More drunken driving/alcohol-related crashes
  • Riskier Road Conditions:
    • Two-way, two-lane roads: greater risk of head-on collision, unsafe and illegal passing.
    • Typically shoulder widths are narrower 
  • Poorer lighting at night
    • Lower seat belt use  
  •  In 2019, 77 percent of the unbelted motor vehicle occupant traffic deaths occurred outside of the Twin Cities.
  • Greater risk of crash with wildlife.
  • People driving greater distances, in their cars for longer periods of time leads to drowsy driving.
  • False sense of security: Rural drivers believe they have a margin of error as large as the fields around them.
  • Attitudes: Young males harboring sense of “invincibility.”
  • Slower delivery of acute medical care.