Argus News Editor
About three months ago the Minnesota Department of Public Safety predicted that the number of traffic fatalities in the state could be the lowest since 1944. According to a report issued by DPS, state officials have achieved that goal.
In 2011, traffic accidents claimed the lives of 349 persons. While that statistic is still quite staggering (it equals every man, woman and child in the community I live in) it is about 300 less than the number of persons who perished on Minnesota roads in 2000.
The figure represents a 38 percent reduction in deaths over the past decade, and a fourth consecutive annual decline in fatalities.
DPS projects the final total — available in early summer as additional crash reports are submitted — to be around 11 percent below the 2010 figure (411) and the lowest since 1944 (356).
The state’s traffic safety efforts are driven by its core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior.
DPS officials note positive driver behavior is propelling the progress. Seat belt compliance is at a record high 93 percent while alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes, and DWI arrests continue to drop.
Other factors include traffic safety legislation, such as primary seat belt law; enhanced enforcement coupled with education efforts; effective MnDOT, county and local engineering improvements; and efficient emergency trauma response. Officials also credit safer vehicles for the trend.
A critical statistic to determine road safety is the death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT). DPS estimates the 2011 VMT will be 0.65, which would be the lowest ever for Minnesota. In 2010, the state VMT fatality rate was less than one person (0.72) — the second lowest in the nation, surpassed only by Massachusetts — and down from a rate of 5.52 in 1966.
Since 2000, the state’s annual traffic deaths have trended downward: in 2000 there were 625 deaths;
2001 — 568; 2002 — 657; 2003 — 655; 2004 — 567; 2005 — 559; 2006 — 494; 2007 — 510; 2008 — 455; 2009 — 421; 2010 — 411.
Preliminary 2011 traffic statistics provided by DPS include:
• The preliminary 349 fatality count includes motorists (276 — down from the final 305 number in 2010), motorcyclists (37 — down from 45); pedestrians (32 — down from 36); and bicyclists (four — down from nine).
• 2011 preliminary DWI arrests — 24,671. There were 29,918 DWI arrests in 2010. The preliminary DWI arrest count will grow as alcohol-concentration data is finalized. Crash data regarding alcohol-related deaths will be reported later this year. Each year, alcohol-related crashes account for more than one-third of the state’s total death count. In 2010, there were 131 alcohol-related deaths, the lowest death count on record since being tracked in 1984.
• 2011’s deadliest months — October (46), July (46) and August (35). The safest months were January (15), March (19) and April (22).
This is good news for everyone who travels on Minnesota roads. And for a person like me, who commutes more than a few miles each day, it’s even better news.
I sat down the other day and figured out just how many miles I’ve driven to and from work since 2000.
I worked in Spring Valley for six years, driving 70 miles per day, worked in La Crescent for one year, driving 100 miles per day and have worked in Caledonia, for nearly five years, driving 50 miles per day. The rough estimate came out to over 190,000 miles.
If I averaged 50 miles per hour, on my daily trip to and from work, that means I spent 3,800 hours over the past 12 years just driving to and from work. And during that time, I’ve never been in an accident.
I guess I’d have to say the TZD program (and probably my guardian angel) have been a wonderful benefit for me.
And as long as I’m lulling you to sleep with all these facts and figures, I thought these figures, provided by Gasbuddy.com were quite interesting.
These are the average “start price” to peak retail gasoline prices in Minnesota over the past five years:
Start Price: $2.15/g on 1/1/2007
Peak Price: $3.33/g on 5/19/2007
Difference: 118.6 cents per gallon
Start Price: $2.96/g on 1/1/2008
Peak Price: $4.00/g on 6/10/2008
Difference: 103.8 cents per gallon
Start Price: $1.64/g on 1/1/2009
Peak Price: $2.68/g on 10/28/2009
Difference: 104.2 cents per gallon
Start Price: $2.63/g on 1/1/2010
Peak Price: $3.02/g on 12/28/2010
Difference: 38.9 cents per gallon
Start Price: $3.02/g on 1/1/2011
Peak Price: $3.97/g on 5/11/2011
Difference: 95.7 cents per gallon