Editorial: Safer driving needed on roads

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fancy sports cars racing through the Twin Cities caught the state’s attention last week.

No mishaps were reported as the dozen drivers maneuvered through the metro area at speeds reaching more than 110 mph, snapping up the attention of those who yearn to be behind the wheel of such an elite machine built for speed.

But just one inattentive driving moment or another driver inconveniently becoming an obstacle in the path of one of the racers could have changed the awe to horror. Troopers who far too often see the effects of drivers coming across the unexpected didn’t take the sports car parade lightly when they ticketed them. One trooper told some of those drivers they were endangering themselves as well as others.

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The foolhardiness of such high-speed cruising is made more apparent when recently shared statistics point to how crashes are as deadly as ever in Minnesota. In the southern part of the state the number of fatalities is climbing. Fatalities at intersections in the region were between eight and 16 per year for four years until jumping to 25 last year. Fatalities due to lane departures hit a high of 27 three years ago, dropped to 16 in 2014 and then rose to 22 last year.

In the past five years, Blue Earth County has had the most fatalities in the south-central region at 32 and the most serious injuries at 60. Males age 20-29 are more likely than other groups to be hurt or killed, and alcohol and speed are frequently cited as factors.

The South Central Toward Zero Deaths chapter, which released the data during a conference Tuesday, continues its job of trying to educate drivers about the consequences of their action. Establishing safe driving habits is a lifelong pursuit with new distractions constantly introduced.

Last year in Minnesota 74 died and 174 received serious injuries in crashes caused by distracted driving.

Although texting and driving infractions are sometimes difficult to prove if a text wasn’t actually sent by the driver, law enforcement has plenty of anecdotal evidence of drivers not paying enough attention to the road. They are seeing more rear-end crashes as those texting are caught off guard by the ebb and flow of traffic.

During a one-week distracted driving crackdown in April, at least one local driver was stopped twice for texting. Statewide 972 citations — up from 909 last year — were given to drivers for texting while driving, including 26 from the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office and nine from Mankato police.

Maybe you also text drive and were lucky enough to escape a citation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll escape causing a crash or being hit by someone else who does. Unless all drivers take distracted driving, drunken driving and speeding seriously, the crash numbers aren’t going to drop anytime soon.


—Mankato Free Press, May 2