ST. PAUL — The 368 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads in 2011 represents a fourth consecutive annual drop in road fatalities and the lowest death count on record since 1944 when 356 were killed. The deaths include 120 unbelted motorists and 111 alcohol-impaired crash victims.
View the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety annual detailed summary of traffic crashes, Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2011 online.
Some key facts from the 2011 report:
• The state’s 2011 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is less than one person (0.65, the state’s record low). The U.S. fatality rate is 1.09. In 2009, (most recent national data), Minnesota was third behind Massachusetts and Connecticut for the lowest fatality rate in the U.S.
• There were 56.7 billion vehicle miles traveled in Minnesota last year, less than 1 percent lower than the 56.8 billion in 2010.
• The 368 deaths also marks a 44 percent decrease from 10 years ago: 2002, 657 deaths; 2003, 655; 2004, 567; 2005, 559; 2006, 494; 2007, 510; 2008, 455; 2009, 421; and 2010, 411.
To-date in 2012, there has been 120 road deaths compared to 115 deaths at this time in 2011.
“Minnesota motorists have done a lot to improve road safety by practicing safe driving behaviors, but there are still far too many families and communities that have been torn apart by these preventable tragedies,” DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman said in an email release. “We remember the lives that were lost on our roads as we continue our drive toward the goal of zero deaths.”
Many factors contribute to the trend of fewer deaths. DPS traffic safety officials say smarter, safer driving is a critical factor for the continuing decline in road deaths. Seat belt compliance is at a record high, and alcohol-impaired crashes (involving drivers at 0.08 alcohol-concentration and above) have dropped in recent years. Driving while impaired (DWI) arrests have also fallen, indicating that more drivers are thinking twice about drinking and driving.
Proactive campaigns anchored in the state’s cornerstone traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TDZ) have also helped. The TZD model employs increased enforcement targeting belt use, speeding and impaired driving; paid media and outreach efforts to educate communities; Minnesota Department of Transportation engineering enhancements; and improved emergency medical and trauma response that increase the chances of survival for crash victims, especially in rural communities.
Important legislation has also factored, including the ban on texting/emailing/web access and the primary seat belt law and booster seat law requirement for children.
2011 Minnesota motor vehicle crash facts include:
• 72,117 crashes; 368 fatalities involve motorists, 271’ motorcyclists, 42; pedestrians, 40; bicyclists, 5; all-terrain vehicle riders, 8; and farm equipment occupants, 2.
• 30,295 injuries, of which 1,159 were severe, life-altering injuries; 261 deaths; and diver-distraction related crashes resulted in 72 deaths; and speed-related crashes resulted in 83 deaths.
• Seat belts: of the 271 vehicle occupants killed, 126 were belted; 48 percent of those not belted were ejected.
• Impaired driving: Alcohol-impaired crash deaths (involving drivers or pedestrians at 0.08 and higher) resulted in 111 deaths, down from 121 in 2010. Last year, 29,257 motorists were arrested for DWI, a 2 percent decrease from 2010 (29,918). One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI.
• There were 42 motorcycle rider deaths, down slightly from 45 in 2010. Motorcycle riders ages 40–64 accounted for 64 percent of rider deaths in 2011. Rider deaths, however, are spiking in 2012 — 15 to-date, compared to eight at this time in 2011. DPS reports ridership is at an all-time high, underscoring the need for rider training, protective gear use, and for motorists to pay attention and look twice for riders.
• There were 39 teenage deaths (ages 13–19) in 2011, a decrease from 47 deaths in 2010 — and down 48 percent from 75 teen deaths five years ago (2006). Teen drivers (16–19) were involved in 47 fatal crashes, resulting in 53 deaths.
• There were 40 pedestrian deaths in 2011, up from 36 in 2010. Of the 33 killed pedestrians tested for alcohol, 27 percent had alcohol-concentration levels of 0.08 or higher. Of the pedestrians killed or injured, 24 percent were crossing illegally. Officials say pedestrians need to cross where it’s safe and that motorists must pay attention for and stop for crossing pedestrians at both marked and unmarked crosswalks, unless signals communicate otherwise.
• There were five bicyclist deaths in 2011 and none were wearing helmets. There were nine rider deaths in 2010. Officials say bicyclists should plan a safe route, wear a helmet, reflective gear, and obey traffic signals and signs.