Minnesota recorded its 100th traffic fatality of the year on Wednesday, the earliest the state has seen traffic deaths hit the triple-digit mark since 2016.
Two teenagers died in a crash Thursday night near Alexandria, pushing the statewide total to at least 102 as of Friday morning. That's 20 more deaths than at this time last year, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety said.
Speeding and alcohol were factors in 60% of the deaths, according to DPS. Both were believed to have been factors in a fiery crash Sunday night when a driver hit a median outside the Lowry Hill Tunnel and burst into flames inside. Two men in the car died.
"Excessive speed continues to take a horrific and preventable toll on our roads," said Mike Hanson, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "Alcohol, distraction and no seat belts also continue to contribute to the loss of life in 2021. It doesn't have to be this way. Every Minnesotan has the power to stop the heartache and make choices that keep everyone alive."
This year's deaths include 82 motorists, 11 pedestrians, two bicyclists and two motorcyclists. The fatalities included 51 crashes involving a single vehicle and 49 with more than one.
Men accounted for 70% of the fatalities. Nineteen of those who died were between ages 31 and 40; victims between 21 and 30 accounted for 18 deaths, DPS said.
Speeding deaths have doubled compared to last year, rising from 22 at this time in 2020 to 40 this year. Another 31 drivers who not wearing seat belts died in crashes, up from 21 at this time last year. Alcohol-related crashes dropped to 21 from 31 in 2020.
Preliminary reports show there were 394 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads in 2020, compared with 364 in 2019. With the summer travel season and what's known as the "100 Deadliest Days" on the roads, Hanson pleaded with motorists to "drive smart by slowing down, paying attention, planning a sober ride and buckling up."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768