Naomi Peterson. Troy Eggers. Trisha Maher. They all missed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tommy Schultz. Solomon Kelkle. Marissa Nelson. They won’t be home for Christmas.

Eduardo Padilla. Blake Asher. Pamela Schmidt. They will miss New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Instead, their names slowly scroll across the top of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) website along with the names of more than 350 others who have died in traffic crashes this year. It’s the latest effort by DPS to reduce roadway fatalities and encourage motorists to obey the speed limit, wear their seat belts and pay attention when driving.

“It is a sobering reminder of those who have been lost in preventable incidents,” said Bruce Gordon, the DPS’ director of communications. “We can never forget there are names behind the numbers.”

With people driving less due to the pandemic, authorities thought there would be fewer traffic fatalities this year. That is far from the case.

The state is set to surpass last year’s death toll of 364 any day now, and there is still a month left in the year. At the current pace, the state will see more than 400 traffic deaths for the first time since 2015 and for only the second time in a decade.

DPS launched its “Drive Smart” campaign last year and since then has used messages on billboards and social media, and radio and TV ads, to remind drivers to make smart choices while behind the wheel.

The department has also conducted its annual education and enforcement campaigns focusing on the leading factors associated with fatal wrecks: speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving and drivers not wearing seat belts.

Last month, DPS tried something new. When the state recorded its 300th highway fatality, the agency teamed with law enforcement and set up empty chairs on the lawn at Soldier’s Field in Rochester to symbolize each of the lives that had been lost on state roads.

“It was a way to visually show how many people died on Minnesota roads,” Gordon said. “We don’t want empty chairs at holiday celebrations.”

Gordon said DPS is always looking for new ways to connect with drivers in hopes they will take messages about traffic safety seriously.

This month, DPS started displaying the names of the dead on its website.

“We want to honor them and remind motorists there are too many names on the list,” Gordon said. “We don’t want to add another. We can change habits. We can all do something.”

Metro Transit app goes regional

The next version of the Metro Transit mobile ticketing app is taking shape, and it’s going to have a regional focus. For starters, the new app will feature a design that looks more neutral with tickets resembling a Go-To card, said the agency’s Adam Mehl.

Go-To cards can be used to pay fares on all the metro area’s transit agencies, including Plymouth Metrolink, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Maple Grove Transit and SouthWest Transit. The idea behind the revamped Metro Transit app is to communicate that mobile fares bought through the app can also be used across the regional transit system.

Riders also will be able to buy tickets through other platforms, such as Google Maps and Transit App.

“We are meeting the customer where they are,” Mehl said. “We don’t want to make them have two apps.”


Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.