Speed is causing more traffic deaths in both Minnesota and North Dakota
Overall numbers are up in both states through July 1 compared to figures from years prior.
MOORHEAD — As summer vacationers continue hitting the roads, speeding is causing a dramatic jump in traffic deaths in Minnesota as well as in neighboring North Dakota.
In Minnesota, the state has reached 200 traffic deaths for the first time this early since 2009 . Excessive speed has accounted for 80 of those deaths through July 1, compared to 49 last year at this time and 29 in 2019.
To combat the problem, the state's Department of Public Safety is coordinating extra speed patrols during July.
Already this year, the Minnesota State Patrol has ticketed at least 39,000 motorists with more than 500 tickets written for speeds of 100 mph or more.
Minnesota reported its 200th traffic death on July 1, the earliest in 12 years. It was up from 148 deaths so far last year.
In North Dakota, the traffic death toll through July 1 stood at 47 compared to 39 at this time last year. The percentage of fatal crashes caused by speeding was up from 7 fatalities or 17% of the fatal crashes last year to 11 fatalities or 22% this year.
Alcohol continued to be the top cause of fatal vehicle crashes in North Dakota and was up from 11 fatalities or about 28% of the total last year to 18 fatalities or 38% this year.
Traffic deaths contributed to alcohol were actually down in Minnesota by 6% or from 60 last year to 45 this year.
Some of the fatal crashes in North Dakota concerning possible alcohol use involved the person not being tested or were involved in ongoing investigations.
Motorcycle deaths were also up in Minnesota, while they were fairly stable in North Dakota.
Lauren Bjork, spokesperson for the Vision Zero North Dakota — a strategy to eliminate motor vehicle crash fatalities — said motorcycle deaths in the state have gone up and down over the past decade. As of July 1, there were six motorcyclists in the state who died compared to five last year.
She said they aren't seeing a trend to higher deaths, but there were 17 motorcycle deaths in all of last year, with 82% of those dying without wearing helmets and 29% speed-related. Alcohol was also a contributing factor in 38% of those motorcycle deaths.
Bjork said there are definitely more motorcyclists on the road as the number of those licensed in North Dakota has grown almost 17% in the past decade.
"That means motorists are sharing the road with more motorcycle riders than ever before," she said.
In Minnesota, officials also didn't have immediate numbers if there were increases in motorcyclist on the road, but they did say that currently there were almost 397,000 people in in the state with a motorcycle endorsements on their license.
Motorcycle deaths in Minnesota are also up this year with 26 fatalities so far this year compared to 18 reported at this time last year.
In the Minnesota fatal crashes, a vast majority also weren't wearing helmets. Two deaths were caused by riders hitting a deer.
Bjork and other public safety officials urge motorcyclists to take numerous safety and training courses offered through ndmsp.com , which are currently full in West Fargo through July, or the motorcycle safety group called ABATE.