Why this is important
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for young people. In addition to the personal toll, crashes have an economic impact on a community though wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor vehicle damage, and employers’ uninsured costs.
What the data show
Between 2005 and 2011, Dakota County consistently had fewer fatal vehicle crashes per 100,000 (ranging from 7.3 to 3.5) than the state (ranging from 11 to 6.9 crashes). Both the state and Dakota County’s rate of fatal crashes has declined in the same time frame; however, the average rate of decline is lower for the state (7.3%) compared to the county’s (8.3%).
The most recent annual data available show the state reduction in per capita serious crashes, while Dakota County saw increase in the rate of fatal crashes during 2010. The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety reports several factors contributed to the decrease in the state; it appears likely the worsening economy played a role because people drove fewer miles per capita. It could be that the greater impact of these economic factors in other parts of the state might partially explain the larger reduction in serious crashes outside of Dakota County.
According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety’s 2011 Crash Report, Minnesota experienced a decrease in traffic fatalities of 10.5 percent from the previous year. The report also states that about one-third of all crashes involve only one vehicle, one-fourth of those in fatal crashes were less than 25 years of age, and two of three fatalities occurred in rural areas (<5,000 population). In single-vehicle crashes, illegal or unsafe speed is the contributing factor cited most often for drivers of all ages. For older drivers, driver inattention or distraction is the second most-cited factor. More than 6,200 crashes were “hit-and-run.” The economic loss associated with traffic crashes in Minnesota was almost $1.5 billion in 2011.
In multiple-vehicle crashes, for drivers through age 64, driver inattention or distraction is cited most often. Distractions can include tasks such as eating, cell phone use, and radio operation or talking to other people in the vehicle.
The data about vehicles involved in crashes comes from the state Department of Public Safety and includes passenger vehicles, pickup trucks, commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, motorized bicycles, school buses, buses, van pool, and tax-exempt vehicles. Crashes are those serious enough to cause injury or death; crashes with only property damage were not included in the data shown in this measure.