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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 71 percent of traffic fatalities in 2020. 
  • In 2020: 
    • 278 of the 394 traffic deaths were outside of the Twin Cities metro.
    • 60  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.
    • 72 percent of all distracted driving traffic fatalities occurred in Greater Minnesota.
  • A big reason for this is the prevalence of two-lane roads: in 2020, 91 (73%) of the 124 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 2020, 76 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.