2024 has been a deadly year so far on Minnesota roads

There have been 84 traffic fatalities so far this year

Traffic moves along Interstate 94 near its junction with I-35E in downtown St. Paul on Tuesday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

2024 has been a deadly year so far on Minnesota roads. More than 80 people have died in crashes. Between Jan. 1 and April 10, traffic fatalities were up 61 percent compared to the same time period last year.

“It’s horrific what we’re seeing out there,” said Mike Hanson with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “We’re almost like what we saw during the pandemic when traffic deaths were up 100 percent at one point.”

Hanson says there are usually lower fatality rates in winter when people are driving slower. But with less snow in the first few months of the year, people have been driving faster.

“Every one of these is preventable,” Hanson said. “I worked in law enforcement for several decades. I saw lots of things out there and I can tell you there is no more violent way to die than in a motor vehicle crash.”

He also urged drivers to obey traffic laws and to not drive distracted, and that new enforcement tactics are coming to crack down on distracted driving.

Seven police departments and two sheriff’s offices will soon receive new, unmarked pickup trucks aimed at catching distracted drivers and people not wearing seat belts or engaging in other dangerous driving behaviors.

The vehicles sit about 3 inches higher than most pickups.

“By putting the officers in a pickup truck that tends to sit up a little bit higher, it gives them a much better vantage point,” Hanson said. “And they can be much more effective at enforcing those distracted driving laws.”

The Legislature appropriated $642,000 to pay for the pickups. The departments getting the new trucks include Orno, St. Paul, Blaine, Olmsted County, Eagan, Grand Rapids, Brooklyn Park, Washington County and Elk River.

Law enforcement agencies are also participating in the statewide distracted driving extra enforcement and awareness campaign through April 30. According to DPS, Distracted driving contributed to nearly 30,000 crashes in Minnesota from 2019 to 2023.

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