Motor vehicle fatalities in Minneapolis hit a seven-year high in 2020 even though motorists drove far fewer miles and crashed less often and speed limits on city streets were reduced.

Wrecks on city streets claimed 17 lives, the most since 2013. Another 122 crashes resulted in at least one person suffering a serious injury, according to the city's 2021 Vision Zero report released Wednesday.

Excessive speeding was identified as the leading factor in crashes that resulted in death, accounting for 70% of fatalities. Reckless driving was also a top factor, the report said.

More than 60% of the fatal crashes occurred on the city's North Side, the report said, and 11 occurred in areas of concentrated poverty where a majority of residents are people of color. People under age 39 were involved in 65% of serious injury or fatal crashes.

Overall, crashes were down 39% in 2020 compared with the average in recent years and severe crashes were down 21%. Crashes resulting in severe injuries or death involving bicyclists and pedestrians fell to their lowest point in 30 years, the report said.

The data do not include incidents on freeways.

Traffic volumes were down citywide, with the biggest drop downtown, the report said. Traffic in downtown through February was down 52% compared with pre-COVID levels, according to INRIX, a traffic analytics company.

The city's Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries by 2027.

To combat speeding and make streets safer, the city in 2020 lowered speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets and 25 mph on larger city-owned streets. The city is planning a 2022 study to determine what percentage of drivers exceed 30 mph and the median speeds on select streets.

Minneapolis Public Works last year worked to improve safety at 29 intersections by installing flexible posts to extend curbs, shortening crossing distances and slowing turning movements.

A new Street Design Guide will shape future projects with traffic-calming elements.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768