2021 had most traffic deaths in Minnesota since 2007, DPS says

Last year was the deadliest year on Minnesota roads since 2007, authorities said Tuesday.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS), 497 people died on Minnesota roads in 2021, preliminary numbers show. That’s a significant increase from the state’s average of 378 traffic fatalities per year from 2016-2020, and the highest total since 510 traffic deaths were reported in 2007.

The state has already reported its first traffic fatality of 2022 after a 51-year-old man died in Goodhue County on New Year’s Day. Alcohol and speed are believed to be contributing factors in that crash.

DPS noted that speed was the largest contributing factor in fatal traffic crashes last year, accounting for 162 of the 497 deaths (33%), a 33% increase from 2020.

Additionally, the number of unbelted fatalities increased to 109 in 2021, a 4% increase over 2020.

DPS says alcohol-related deaths dropped slightly from 135 in 2020 to 124 last year, as did distracted-related deaths, which dropped from 32 in 2020 to 24 last year.

The 497 fatalities include 67 motorcyclists, up by three from 2020, and 58 pedestrians, a big increase from 45 in 2020. Nine bicyclists also died last year, down from 10 in 2020.

"I’m saddened knowing how many families lost a loved one in a traffic crash in 2021," DPS-OTS Director Mike Hanson said. "With sadness, there is also anger. Anger that so many motorists are taking the privilege of driving for granted. Some drivers are deliberately exceeding the speed limit, failing to put down the phone, refusing to buckle up and making the poor choice of driving impaired. Until every motorist takes responsibility for their own actions, we’ll continue to see the carnage on our roads. Let’s make sure 2022 isn’t as heartbreaking for Minnesotans."

DPS says 72% of the 497 people killed on Minnesota’s roads last year were male victims, with the 31- to 40-year-old and 21- to 30-year-old age ranges accounting for nearly 35% of the victims.

DPS urges Minnesotans to help prevent traffic deaths by paying attention, following speed limits, driving sober and smart as well as wearing a seat belt.