Driving safe over Memorial Day weekend to prevent heartache and tragedy

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(ABC 6 News) – More than 37 million Americans are traveling this weekend in honor of Memorial Day according to AAA.

This weekend is also the beginning of what officials call the “100 deadliest days” of summer.

Before people set out for the holiday, state patrols are warning travelers to drive smart to prevent heartache and tragedy.

In Minnesota, there was a decrease in traffic fatalities last year, but there’s been more distracted driving crashes and a 19% increase in drivers not wearing their seatbelts.

There will be an increased law enforcement presence over the weekend and officers are asking people on both the roads and water to always drive sober, buckle up and be responsible.

“We’re just asking drivers to give yourself extra time. I know it can be frustrating to be stuck in traffic when you’re trying to get to the cabin, but we all want to get there safely and the way that we do that is we work together,” explained Lt. Gordon Shank with MSP. “So make sure that you’re planning ahead, give yourself extra time, do not get in road rage incidents.”

That warning also echoed down in Iowa, as the state patrol says they’ve noticed a deadly trend on the roads.

They say last Memorial Weekend, nine people died and none of them were alcohol-related.

So far this year, there’s been 122 traffic deaths on Iowa roads, with 60% of these accidents having unbelted drivers. This is 14 more traffic deaths than this time last year.

Many troopers believe distracted driving and high speeds are to blame.

Between 2018-2022, there were 1,100 citations for drivers going more than 100 mph. So far this year, there have already been 400 citations.

“People see it as a number until it affects their family and then they see them as a person. And they maybe will start to realize but then it’s too late,” said Trooper Tom Williams with ISP. “They need to heed our warning, people are dying out here.”

The biggest message, he says, needs to go out to teen drivers.

In 2022, there was a major increase in teen traffic fatalities. Last year marked a 42.2% increase in the deaths of 14-16 year-old drivers, the highest number of teen traffic deaths in nine years.

Williams asks that parents ensure teens are wearing their seatbelts, driving the speed limit and being safe this holiday weekend.