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Final 2012 traffic crash report: 395 killed on Minnesota roads; up 7 percent

A mild winter, a slight increase in miles traveled and a spike in motorcyclist deaths in 2012 are a few of the reasons Minnesota had its first increase in traffic deaths since 2007. The 395 traffic deaths in 2012 is a 7 percent increase from 2011 (368), yet represents a 40 percent decrease in deaths from a decade ago.

Final 2012 crash data is reported in Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2012, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety annual summary of traffic crashes.

The 2012 deaths include 116 unbelted motorist deaths, 104 drunk driving crash victims and 55 motorcyclist deaths. The 2012 fatality count is the second lowest annual death figure (behind 2011) since 1944 when 356 were killed.

To-date in 2013, there has been 134 road deaths compared to 125 deaths at this time in 2012.

"The big picture shows we've made great progress in the past decade, but the increase in deaths in 2012 is troubling, as is the climbing road death toll this year," says DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman. "These recent stats demonstrate the ongoing issues we face to improving Minnesota road safety, but they are all issues that can be prevented with smart and safe driver behavior."

Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2012 Highlights

Crash Facts 2012 details crashes by vehicle type, contributing factors, driver age and gender, and occurrence of crashes by county, as well as cities with populations of 2,500 or more.

Fatality Rate Per Vehicle Miles Traveled

The state's preliminary 2012 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is less than one person, 0.69 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The U.S. fatality rate is 1.09. In 2011, (most recent national data), Minnesota was second behind Massachusetts for the lowest fatality rate in the U.S. Officials say despite the increase in deaths in 2012, the fatality rate will remain among the lowest in the nation once 2012 national data is complete.

There were 57.0 billion vehicle miles traveled in Minnesota last year, less than 1 percent higher than the 56.7 billion in 2011.

Deaths During the Past Decade

The 395 deaths marks a 40 percent decrease from 10 years ago: 2003 -- 655; 2004 -- 567; 2005 -- 559; 2006 -- 494; 2007 -- 510; 2008 -- 455; 2009 -- 421; 2010 -- 411; 2011 -- 368.

DPS says proactive campaigns anchored in the state's cornerstone traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths have helped reduce deaths significantly over the past decade: Increased enforcement coupled with educational efforts and media campaigns; MnDOT road engineering enhancements; and improved emergency medical and trauma response.

Officials also attribute progress to safer vehicles and important legislation. Most importantly, they cite improving driver behavior: Seat belt use is at a record high 94 percent and a continuing drop in DWI arrests and drunk driving deaths signals people are making safer choices.

Breakdown of the Traffic Deaths and Injuries

The 395 fatalities involve motorists (276); motorcyclists (55); pedestrians (40); ATV riders (9); bicyclists (7); farm equipment occupants (2); commercial bus riders (2); snowmobile riders (1); and three unknown vehicle types.

There were 29,314 total injuries of which 1,268 were severe and life-altering.

Fatal and Injury Crashes

There were 21,321 fatal and injury crashes -- down from 21,996 in 2011; 24,333 in 2008; and 28,648 in 2004.

Causes for the Crashes

The most common contributing factors in 2012 crashes are in order of frequency: driver inattention/distraction; failure to yield right-of-way, and illegal or unsafe speed.

Driver distraction-related crashes resulted in 51 deaths, down from 72 in 2011. Speed-related crashes resulted in 74 deaths, down from 83 in 2011.

Twin Cities vs. Greater Minnesota

Of the 395 deaths, 286 (72 percent) occurred in the 80 counties of Greater Minnesota, while 109 deaths (28 percent) occurred in the Twin Cities' seven-county metro area.

Seat Belt Use

Of the 276 vehicle occupants killed, 116 were not buckled up --54 percent of those not belted were ejected. A decade ago there were 257 unbelted deaths. Seat belt compliance is at a record-high 94 percent. Officials say the primary seat belt law (effective since June 2009) has helped to further increase belt compliance, resulting in fewer unbelted traffic deaths. Officials urge motorists to insist every passenger is belted, including in the back seat.

Child Passenger Safety

There were two children killed (ages 0-7) and 721 injured. Of those killed, one was not properly restrained and of the injured 32 percent were not restrained. Minnesota statute requires children under age 8 to ride in a federally approved car seat or booster, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller.

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving crashes resulted in 104 deaths, down from 111 in 2011. Last year, 28,418 motorists were arrested for DWI, a 3 percent decrease from 2011 (29,257) and down from 35,736 in 2008. One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI. Officials stress the importance of planning ahead for a sober ride and offering to be a sober driver.


There were 55 rider deaths, up from 42 in 2011. Motorcycle riders ages 40-64 accounted for 53 percent of rider deaths in 2012. Ridership is at an all-time high and officials urge riders to take rider training to hone skills and to use helmets and protective gear use. Motorists must pay attention and look twice for riders.


There were 40 teenage deaths (ages 13-19) in 2012, one more than the 39 teen deaths in 2011 -- but down 25 percent from the 53 teen deaths five years ago (2008). Teen drivers (16-19) were involved in 34 fatal crashes resulting in 43 deaths. Officials encourage parents to discuss and reinforce laws with teens, and continue to monitor and provide supervised training for their teen in a variety of conditions and road types, especially during the first year of licensure.


There were 40 pedestrian deaths in 2012, the same number as in 2011. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of the killed pedestrians had alcohol-concentration levels of 0.08 or higher. Of the pedestrians killed or injured, 28 percent were crossing illegally. Officials urge pedestrians to cross where it's safe, and look out for their own safety, as distracted drivers aren't looking out for them. Motorists must pay attention and stop for crossing pedestrians at both marked and unmarked crosswalks, unless signals communicate otherwise.


There were seven bicyclist deaths in 2012, up from five in 2011. The leading bicyclist crash factors were disregard for traffic control device and driver distraction. Of the seven riders killed in 2012, none were known to be wearing helmets. Officials say bicyclists should wear helmets, use reflective gear, ride with traffic, and obey traffic signals and signs. Drivers must pay attention, give riders room and check blind spots for riders.