MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota safety officials are urging motorists to drive safely ahead of Memorial Day weekend, which marks the start of what’s historically been the deadliest 100 days on Minnesota roads.
The Department of Public Safety cautioned in a statement Thursday that if driving behavior doesn’t improve soon, the state might be in for a repeat of last summer, when the state experienced the deadliest three-month stretch in nearly a decade.
Data show that 158 people died between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year, accounting for about 40% of all 2020 traffic deaths.
Already this year, driving-related fatalities are on the rise. The numbers may continue to increase as more Minnesotans travel due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
According to safety officials, preliminary information shows that in the first five months of 2021 there’ve been 149 deaths on Minnesota roads. This marks a nearly 40% increase over last year, when the fatality count at this time was at 107.
Safety officials say that speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving, and failing to wear seat belts are significant factors in fatal crashes. So far this year, speeding alone has contributed to 61 deaths, or 40% of traffic fatalities.
Starting this weekend, there’ll be speed patrols throughout the state that’ll last over the summer, safety officials say. Later in the season, there’ll also be patrols for seat belt compliance and impaired driving.
During an average Memorial Day weekend, seven people die on Minnesota roads, safety officials say. Last year, eight people died in crashes across the state.