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Minnesota had nearly 500 road fatalities in 2021, most since 2007

Of last year’s deaths, 162 were speed-related — a 33% increase from 2020, according to state figures.

Fatal Crash Evansville.jpg
Skid marks and paint can be seen at the site of a fatal head-on crash on County Road 41 near Evansville on Monday, July 26, 2021.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota last year saw its highest number of traffic deaths in more than a decade, a trend public safety officials said was largely driven by speeding and unbelted drivers.

In 2021 there were 497 traffic fatalities statewide, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. That’s the highest tally since 2007 when the state had 510 deaths.

In a release announcing 2021 preliminary totals, Office of Traffic Safety Director Mike Hanson said he was saddened by how many families lost a loved one in a traffic crash last year. He stressed that road fatalities are preventable.

“With sadness, there is also anger. Anger that so many motorists are taking the privilege of driving for granted,” Hanson said. “Some drivers are deliberately exceeding the speed limit, failing to put down the phone, refusing to buckle up and making the poor choice of driving impaired.”

Of last year’s deaths, 162 were speed-related — a 33% increase from 2020, according to state figures. A third of all traffic fatalities in 2021 were speed-related, compared to a quarter on average from 2016 to 2020.

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With 109 deaths in 2021, unbelted fatalities were nearly 50% higher than they were in 2019 when there were 73.

Last week, Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson highlighted Minnesota’s Toward Zero Deaths campaign goal of 230 deaths in a year, saying the state had failed.

"We've failed as a society, as law enforcement, as everybody," he said. "We’ve failed in that and there is 500 people that didn't make it to Christmas. There is 500 people that won't be here next year to celebrate graduations and birthdays in our state because of things we could prevent ourselves."

Looking toward the new year, Torgerson said we've all got to do better.

"We've got to do better somehow and that's not just us, not just public safety, that’s everybody," he said.

In addition to speed and unbelted driver deaths, preliminary data for 2021 show:

  • 124 alcohol-related deaths, compared with 135 in 2020 and 114 in 2019.
  • 24 distracted-related deaths, compared with 32 in 2020 and 34 in 2019.

The 497 traffic fatalities Include:

  • 67 motorcyclists
  • 58 pedestrians
  • 9 bicyclists

Reporter Emily Cutts in Rochester contributed to this report. Follow Alex Derosier on Twitter @xanderosier or email aderosier@forumcomm.com.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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