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Traffic deaths rise in Minnesota, reach 10-year low in North Dakota

The vehicle and bicycle involved in a fatal crash are removed from the scene by a tow truck June 20, 2018, on 40th Avenue North in Reile's Acres, N.D. Killed in the crash was 56-year-old bicyclist Kathy M. Hettenbaugh. Forum file photo

FARGO — The number of fatal motor vehicle crashes in North Dakota dipped to a 10-year low in 2018, while Minnesota experienced a slight increase in traffic deaths, according to preliminary figures from officials.

There were 104 deaths on North Dakota roads in 2018. That's a dozen fewer than in 2017 and the lowest since 2008, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported 380 traffic fatalities in 2018 compared to 358 in 2017. That year, the state experienced its lowest number of roadway deaths in nearly 75 years. Minnesota's highest number of traffic deaths in recent years came in 2015 when 411 people died.

In North Dakota, about 50 percent of fatal crash victims in 2018 were not wearing a seat belt. In Minnesota, that number was about 24 percent.

In both states, about 30 percent of traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. Speeding was a factor in 35 percent of North Dakota roadway deaths and 26 percent in Minnesota.

These preventable, behavior-related fatalities shouldn't be tolerated, NDDOT Director Tom Sorel said in a news release. Sorel said reducing traffic deaths involves "establishing a culture of personal responsibility," and Minnesota echoes this goal.

Mike Hanson, traffic safety director at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said drivers should commit to safe driving habits.

"No more multitasking, no more getting behind (the wheel) when you are impaired, no more speeding because you are in a rush, and no more excuses about not buckling up," Hanson said in a statement.

Not all fatalities in 2018 were drivers or passengers. There were 42 pedestrians and seven bicyclists killed in Minnesota. In North Dakota, six pedestrians and two bicyclists were killed.

North Dakota's Vision Zero strategy aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the long term, though a short-term goal is to cut annual fatalities to fewer than 75 by 2025.

"To lose one life is one too many," Sorel said. "But I'm encouraged to see fatality numbers trending down from last year."

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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