A driver who crossed the centerline on Hwy. 12 in Delano, Minn., and crashed head-on into another vehicle, killing a woman Wednesday night, was drunk, the State Patrol said Thursday.
The crash, at 10:47 p.m. and on dry payment, was on one of the metro area’s most dangerous highways.
Killed was Mayla Macon, 40, of nearby Cokato, the patrol said. Three other people were injured.
Macon was a passenger in a vehicle heading west on Hwy. 12 at Babcock Avenue when an eastbound pickup crossed through the center turn lane and ended up in the westbound lane. The pickup struck a westbound vehicle driven by Dustin Helget, 31, of Cokato. A third vehicle then hit Helget’s vehicle, the State Patrol said.
The pickup truck driver was identified as Michael Steer, 24, of Waverly, Minn. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Helget was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale with a serious injury.
Carol Jahnke, the driver of the third vehicle that was involved in the crash, was taken to a hospital in Buffalo. Jahnke is 65 and from South Haven, Minn.
The fatal crash was the first this year and the first since members of the Highway 12 Safety Coalition issued a challenge to drivers: No fatal crashes on a 38-mile stretch of Hwy. 12 that officials call the most dangerous in the metro area. The section, which runs from Wayzata in western Hennepin County all the way through Wright County, has the highest crash rate in the metro when compared to similar two-lane highways, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
In the past five years, more than a dozen fatal crashes have left 16 people dead on Hwy. 12 in area. In the same time period, there have been 811 crashes on the two-lane highway that was built in the 1930s, but now carries more than 15,000 vehicles a day by MnDOT counts. More than 239 people have been injured, according to DPS statistics.
As part of the “Going 12 for Highway 12” challenge, authorities had promised to step up traffic enforcement. During a one-day enforcement Monday, police cited 77 drivers for violations such as speeding (42), not wearing a seat belt (5), no driver’s license (3), failure to move over for stopped police vehicles (2), no proof of insurance (10) and other violations (15).
The coalition, formed in July 2014, has been pushing for improved safety along the corridor, which has seen a high number of crashes involving vehicles crossing the centerline in recent years. The coalition has been behind some solutions, too. In December 2014, its efforts resulted in a Rogers, Minn., firm installing center rumble strips from County Road 6 to the Maple Plain border and west of Maple Plain to County Line Road, which serves as the border between Delano and Independence. The company, Diamond Surface, Inc., did the work for free.
MnDOT has installed bright yellow signs along the route to remind motorists about the yearlong campaign and to be careful and attentive.