Grim road: Minnesota traffic deaths leap in 2015

Weekend accidents pushed Minnesota 2015 road deaths above 200, 21 percent higher than the same time last year. Officials on Monday pleaded with drivers to curb the deadly trend.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said a 37-year-old suspected of being under the influence of alcohol died Saturday night following a crash in Sibley County. In Blue Earth County, a 20-year-old man lost control of his vehicle and was killed late Friday night after being partially ejected from his vehicle. He was not wearing a seat belt, DPS said.

Officials have been sending out repeated warnings this spring and summer with each set of new, grim statistics. On Monday, they reported 201 people have lost their lives on Minnesota roads so far this year compared with 166 this time last year.

Motorcycle deaths are driving much of the dramatic increase this year. So far this year, 37 people have been killed while riding their motorcycles — more than double the number by this time last year. Preliminary data also show 17 pedestrian deaths in 2015, compared with eight this time last year.

Driver inattention and distraction was the number one contributing factor in 2014 traffic fatalities in multiple vehicle crashes, surpassing speed as the top factor a year ago, the public safety agency said.

"Every driver needs to make a commitment to drive safely," Donna Berger, the state's Office of Traffic Safety director, said in a statement. "We ask everyone to pay attention, drive the speed limit, buckle up and never drive drunk."

Officials also noted the long-term picture on traffic deaths is encouraging. Minnesota traffic fatalities dropped to 361 last year, the lowest since World War II, and are down 66 percent since 1968 when Minnesota reached an all-time record of 1,060 deaths.

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