An estimated 380 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Minnesota in 2018 — 22 more than the previous year, according to preliminary data out Wednesday from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Alcohol was the leading cause cited in those crashes, factoring into the deaths of 121 people. The other leading causes of deadly crashes were speeding, motorists not wearing seat belts and distracted driving, the DPS said.
The numbers show that Minnesotans need to make a concerted effort to make safe driving choices when getting behind the wheel, said Mike Hanson, director of the agency’s Office of Traffic Safety.
“No more multi-tasking, no more getting behind [the wheel] when you are impaired, no more speeding because you are in a rush and no more excuses about not buckling up,” he said. “We can stop the preventable deaths on our roads and save lives.”
While the 2018 total is higher than it was in 2017, it’s lower than many years in the past decade, when Minnesota’s crash deaths sometimes totaled more than 400 a year.
Men accounted for 70 percent, or 266, of the fatalities in 2018, the DPS said.
The people killed included 58 motorcyclists, 42 pedestrians and seven bicyclists.
October was the deadliest month with 46 fatalities, followed by September with 42 and July with 40. March had the fewest vehicle crash deaths with 18.
Officers statewide also made more arrests for drunken driving than they did in 2017. Preliminary numbers show law enforcement tagged 26,853 drivers for DWI, up about 2,000 from 2017. Law enforcement arrested 143 drivers for DWI on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the DPS said.
The State Patrol urges people to have a sober designated driver or take public transportation if they have had too much to drink. The patrol also urges all motorists to buckle up, slow down, pay attention and call 911 to report suspected drunken drivers.
“While law enforcement can continue to educate and enforce the rules of the road, we need everyone’s help,” said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank. “If you see a dangerous behavior, speak up or call 911. Doing so may save your life and the lives of innocent people on our roads.”
There will be extra enforcement measures later this year on the four behaviors that contribute to the most deaths on the roads. Law enforcement will focus on distracted driving April 8-30, seat belts and child restraints May 20-June 2, speeding June 18-July 21 and drunken driving on multiple dates throughout the year.