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Traffic Fatalities Declining Across Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota


January 2018

2017 was one of the safest years in recent memory on the roads of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota as drivers appear to have implemented safer-driving methods while traversing the roads. 

The figures in Minnesota were especially encouraging as the number of fatalities in 2017 (348) was the lowest since 1943 (274) and the second-lowest since 1926 (326). Of course, any deaths more than zero are too many, but many are encouraged by the improving figures as of late, especially since the number of traffic fatalities in Minnesota just two years earlier was 411.

But the state is refusing to let up on lowering those numbers, and the name for Minnesota's traffic safety program, "Toward Zero Deaths," (www.minnesotatzd.org) clearly communicates the goal. The state borrowed that concept from Sweden, where it was first used, and has adopted measures that have been used there as well as in Australia and Washington state. 

Minnesota's TZD program, which focuses on integrating engineering, education, enforcement and emergency medical and trauma services to reduce deaths, dates to 2003. Some of the ways that this approach has been put into practice include utilizing engineering skills to create roundabouts, which have been proven to be safer than traditional intersections, posting safety tips on roadside signs and publicly announcing that an emphasis has been placed on seeking out those who are driving under the influence.

In the decade prior to the program's implementation, an average of 608 traffic-related deaths occurred every year. In the 10 years that followed, the average per year dropped 35 percent to 395.

Iowa roads have also been safer to traverse over this past year as the 329 traffic-related fatalities there in 2017 were 17 percent less than the 398 who died on Iowa roads in 2016. It was especially promising to officials that the figure dropped that significantly after it had increased at a distressing rate, 26 percent, from 2015 (315) to 2016. It's believed that a law that went into effect on July 1 that allowed police officers to pull over drivers who are texting (with no other seen offenses necessary) was one of the factors.

Although the traffic-fatality numbers may not be quite as impressive in North Dakota and South Dakota, there are many reasons for officials and drivers alike to feel positive about what's happening in those states as well. 

In North Dakota, the number of traffic-related fatalities was the same in 2017 as it was in 2016 (113), but that figure followed much more distressing numbers the previous four years. It was 170 in 2012, 148 in 2013, 135 in 2014 and 131 in 2015, so it's dropped 31 percent from 2012 to 2017. Officials believe that more consistent enforcement of safety rules and a greater emphasis on seat-belt use are to credit. 

Meanwhile, South Dakota did experience an increase in traffic fatalities from 2016 (116) to 2017 (the exact number has not been released yet), but it's important to note that the figure of 116 a year ago was the second-lowest in the history of the state and a 14 percent decrease from 2015 (134). 

However, even though these numbers are promising and cause for celebration, serious accidents are still going to occur from time to time. If you or a loved one has been injured in one, contact Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben so an experienced car accident attorney can assist you. The main office is located in Minneapolis, while representing accident victims in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Call 612-377-7777 or toll free at 1-800-752-4265 for a free consultation.