Minnesota traffic deaths on the decline

Published 9:28 am Thursday, January 6, 2011

By Amanda Lillie, staff writer

Minnesota may have seen the lowest number of traffic deaths in 2010 than any other year, including four traffic deaths in Mower County.

At least 410 people were killed in traffic-related deaths in 2010, according to preliminary data from the state Department of Public Safety. A few more fatal crash reports are expected to trickle in during the next few months before the final numbers are released in early summer.

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DPS Commissioner Michael Campion released a statement saying the lower death numbers could be attributed to new traffic safety laws, enhanced DWI enforcement, efficient emergency trauma response and safer vehicles.

Daytime seat belt use is at a record high of 92 percent, which could be a factor in the decrease of deaths.

If 2010 comes in under 421, which was the total in 2009, it will be the lowest number of traffic deaths Minnesota has ever seen. Since the year 2000, deaths have decreased by about 200.

Motorcyclist deaths also fell in 2010, down to 41 deaths from 53 in 2009. More teens ages 16 to 19 were killed in Minnesota than last year, with the total up to 37 from 35.

The DPS also reports preliminary DWI arrest numbers are down from last year. In 2010, 26,810 people were arrested for DWI, whereas 2009 boasted 32,924 DWIs.

To keep Minnesota motorists safer in the winter, the DPS is reminding people of safe winter driving practices.

Tips from the DPS:

Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.

Keep at least five car-lengths behind plows.

If sliding on the road, don’t brake hard. Ease off the gas and turn the wheel the way in which the front of the vehicle should go.

Never pump ABS brakes. Instead, apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.

Use headlights if it is snowing, sleeting, raining or foggy.

Do not use cruise control on icy or wet roads.

Carry a scraper, small shovel, jumper cables and a bag of sand or cat litter for traction in case of an emergency.