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Update on Minnesota Highway Safety During COVID – Higher Speeds = More Fatalities.

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Despite fewer miles travelled by Minnesota drivers overall, preliminary reports from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) indicate that traffic fatalities continue to rise, eclipsing last year’s totals.

From January through September 2020, 291 people were killed on Minnesota roadways, up from 264 deaths over the same period last year.

Of the 291 deaths: 

84 were categorized as speed-related (compared with 59 in 2019).

85 were alcohol-related (84 in 2019).

20 were the result of distracted-related (29 in 2019).

68 involved motorists not wearing a seat belt (52 in 2019).

34 were pedestrians (26 in 2019).

54 were motorcyclists (39 in 2019).

8 were bicyclists, (6 in 2019).

According to the OTS, in recent years the average number of traffic fatalities in Minnesota between October 1 and December 31 has been 103.

Although Minnesota drivers are logging fewer miles during the COVID-19 pandemic, one explanation for the uptick in fatalities may be related to the temptation to speed on less congested roadways coupled with a belief among some drivers that there are fewer police officers patrolling to enforce traffic laws.

From April 1 through May 21, the Minnesota State Patrol stopped 232 drivers traveling more than 100 mph a 149 percent increase during the same time period in 2019. Of the 232 drivers cited, 179 were under 30 years old.

Vehicles travelling at greater speeds are harder for drivers to control, require increased stopping distances, provide less reaction time for drivers and exponentially contribute to crash severity, causing greater injuries and likelihood of death.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, many high-speed drivers also cut across lanes of traffic to overtake slower vehicles, thereby increasing the risk of a collision.
During a recent weekend, more than 100 vehicles were pulled over in a targeted traffic enforcement campaign against speeding and street racing by officers from Metro Transit, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Brooklyn Park.

Over the summer, Minneapolis police opened fire hydrants to flood downtown streets to deter high-speed drag racers. Other metro suburbs including St. Louis Park and Roseville are also seeing more illegal street racing behavior.

In a press release addressing the increased dangers of speeding during the COVID-19 pandemic, OTS director Mike Hanson warned, “Fewer vehicles on the road doesn’t mean less danger… going the speed limit and slowing down are critical to us all coming home to our loved ones at the end of the day.”

If you find yourself facing DWI or OWI charges or other traffic violations and need to explore your options for getting your driving privileges restored, our seasoned lawyers can help. Attorneys are available 24-7 — Call us at 612-334-3342.

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