Traffic deaths spike in Minnesota despite low vehicle volume

Few cars on an interstate.
Morning rush hour is quiet on Interstate 94 as the sun rises March 30, the first weekday of the state's stay-at-home order.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

The Minnesota State Patrol said it's concerned about a spike in traffic fatalities.

The director of the Office of Traffic Safety, Mike Hanson, said that since Gov. Tim Walz issued the stay-at-home order, traffic fatalities in Minnesota have increased about 50 percent and that's at a time that traffic is down roughly 50 percent.

"The two things that we're seeing out there are aggressive, careless driving and speeds and in many cases, really excessive speeds," Hanson said.

Hanson said there may be an incorrect perception that speed limits are not being enforced during the pandemic. Whatever the case, Hanson is urging Minnesotans to slow down and drive carefully.

"Unfortunately, Minnesota is kind of bucking a trend here most of our other partner states are seeing declines and, in some cases, significant declines in their fatality rate," Hanson said.

The State Patrol said 28 people have died on Minnesota roadways over the past three weeks. There were 13 fatalities during the same period last year.

Hanson urged motorists to be aware that treating serious injuries from preventable accidents strips capacity from the health care system.

"Those fatal crashes and those serious injury crashes are diverting critical resources away from the COVID medical needs and this is really why we need to focus on our driving task and be safe behind the wheel,” Hanson said.