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Fatal traffic accidents up nearly 27% in Minnesota from 2020-21

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows an estimated 500 people were killed in crashes last year.

MINNESOTA, USA — Editor's note: The video above first aired on KARE 11 on March 31, 2022.

Curfews, closures and work from home habits kept millions of Americans off the roads at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But as states lifted restrictions and businesses began reopening, drivers got back behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the projected number of people that died in motor vehicle traffic crashes across the U.S. in 2021 is 42,915, up about 10.5% from the 38,824 fatalities registered in 2020.

In Minnesota, fatal accidents jumped nearly 27% from 2020 to 2021. In 2020, there was an estimated 394 fatal crashes; in 2021, there were 500.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were marked increases in fatalities and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020," reads an April 2022 report from the NHTSA. "This increased trend in fatalities continued into 2021 (the degree of increase was greatly reduced during June–December). The increased trend in fatality rate per 100 million VMT continued into the first quarter of 2021, but the fatality rate decreased in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2021 compared to 2020."

RELATED: Urgent plea at Minnesota Capitol for safer roads

Additional reports from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety corroborate how deadly the past two years have been on roadways in this state. In 2021, the number of people killed by not wearing a seatbelt rose for the second straight year.

In 2021, 108 unbelted people died on Minnesota roads, up three from 2020. Last year's deaths reflect a 48% increase from 2019, when there were just 73 unbelted deaths.

Of those unbelted fatalities in 2021, 

  • 38 were people between 25 and 39 years old -- the highest since 2021 (36) 
  • According to the OTS, 77% of people who died after not wearing a seatbelt were killed outside the seven-country metro area.

Through May 15 of this year, here have been 27 unbelted traffic deaths across the state, which is 27% lower than the same time last year (37).

From May 23 through June 5, drivers across Minnesota might notice increased patrols as part of the nationwide "Click It or Ticket" campaign. The State Patrol will conduct additional high intensity patrols through the summer and into mid-September, in an effort to stop dangerous driving behaviors. 

Here is a list of those targeted patrols:

  • June 24, 25, 26 - Twin Cities metro freeways
  • July 15, 16, 17 - Twin Cities metro freeways
  • Aug. 5, 6, 7 - I-35, Pine City to Duluth
  • Sept. 16, 17, 18 - I-94, Moorhead to Rogers

“When a life is lost because of no seat belt, it’s very discouraging because it so easily could’ve been prevented,” Office of Traffic Safety director Mike Hanson said in a press release. “That’s it. It’s over for that person and for loved ones and friends left behind. When you’re heading out, please make the wise, caring choice to wear your seat belt and refuse to put the vehicle in drive until passengers buckle up as well. Drive smart and live.”

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