‘Long and bloody summer on Minnesota roads,’ says DPS in preliminary summer crash report

(KSTP) – The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is calling it a “long and bloody summer on Minnesota roads” as the number of fatal crashes ranks as one of the highest the Minnesota State Patrol has seen in a decade. 

Over the busy Labor Day weekend, DPS reported 11 deaths and nine crashes. Data also shows the impact of what’s known as the “100 deadliest days of summer,” which is between Memorial and Labor Day. 

In that report, preliminary results for 2023 are at 161 deaths and 146 crashes, which is up from 116 deaths and 110 crashes in 2014. The report shows 168 fatalities and 153 crashes in 2022.

Mike Hanson, Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety Director, says the last three years have “absolutely been horrific.”

“When I look at the last three years, certainly speed has again risen near the top of the list of the things that cause us the greatest concern. And when you think about it, speed is the one thing that makes every other bad decision or mistake that a driver makes even worse,” said Hanson. 

Impairment and distracted driving also continue to be a growing problem. Hanson explained in early 2020 when traffic volumes and vehicle miles traveled plummeted, DPS fully expected to see a reduction in the number of crashes, deaths and serious injury crashes. 

“Well, in fact, we saw the exact opposite,” said Hanson. “When there was less traffic around, there was more lane space, less congestion, and more ability to exceed that speed limit. And so we saw speeds go up and we see that continue even to today.”

In response to reckless driving, more law enforcement have been out on patrol targeting specific areas. Programs like HEAT and Project 20 have proven to be successful, according to Hanson. 

He said overall this year, there have been over 400 deaths on Minnesota roads, which is 35 fewer than the same time last year. 

“So, it’s telling us that the work we’re doing is having an effect,” Hanson said. 

In addition, $5 million from the legislature will provide training and equipment for law enforcement agencies to tackle dangerous driving. The funds will also help with outreach and education, as well as help cover extra enforcement efforts across the state. 

In the meantime, Hanson admits the data is grim and there’s a tremendous way to go.

“If we can save one family from having to bury a loved one because of a completely preventable event, that is why we do what we do everyday,” he said.