MANKATO — On Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and a handful of lawmakers gathered to announced a major upgrade to Highway 14, a roadway proven to be among the state’s deadliest.
But on Wednesday, the State Patrol and a handful of medical professionals wanted to remind people of a simple fact: In most cases, roads don’t kill motorists. Bad driving and poor driving decisions kill motorists.
Whether it’s speeding, not wearing a seat belt or drunken driving, safer driving could cut down dramatically on both the number of crashes and the severity of the crashes that do occur.
Unless we get voluntary compliance with driving rules and safe driving behavior, we’ll continue to have senseless traffic deaths, said Capt. Lori Hodapp-Betterton of the State Patrol.
With a rare extra holiday weekend situation coming up, both the State Patrol and hospital officials were hoping to alert motorists to the dangers of unsafe driving. The Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, leaving the weekends before and after to likely have high numbers of holiday travelers, they said.
Between 2005 and 2011, there were 35 crashes on Minnesota highways on Fourth of July weekends that resulted deaths. Last year, July was the second deadliest month as 47 people were killed in crashes. The worst month was October with 50 deaths.
Locally, in 2011 in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties, there were more than 1,600 crashes resulting in 13 deaths last year. Statewide, less than half of the people who were killed in crashes were wearing seat belts, and 37 percent of all fatal crashes were alcohol-related.
“Our goal is for people to have a safe, healthy holiday and not end up in the emergency department,” said Tim Deaconson, a trauma surgeon and chief medical operating officer for Mayo Clinic Health System in the Southwest Minnesota region.
“We see the results of inattentive driving, distracted driving and other poor choices all the time. Traffic crashes are a major public health issue, costing lives and wasting millions of Minnesota taxpayer dollars each year.”