Higher number of traffic deaths predicted on Minnesota in 2013

As of the last weekend in July, there have been more deaths on Minnesota roads than at the same time last year. Whereas 175 people had died due to traffic accidents at the end of July, 2012, a preliminary count by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety places the number of fatal wrecks so far this year at just over 200 as of July 29. Five deadly car accidents over the weekend of July 27-28 pushed the figure to 202, which is 27 more traffic-related deaths than 2012.

A breakdown of the numbers

While most traffic fatalities involve people driving or riding in a motor vehicle, the numbers also take into account bicyclists and pedestrians who have died on the state's roads. Two cyclists and eight pedestrians have died on Minnesota roads this year. Motorcyclist traffic deaths have risen in the past year. KSTP.com reports that 38 motorcyclists have lost their lives in traffic accidents this year, with 17 deaths occurring in July alone. If the number of fatal wrecks continues at the current rate, this year's traffic death toll could reach 450 motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. This will be the second straight year in which fatal traffic accidents have increased.

Traffic issues that cause fatal wrecks

There are many causes behind this year's 13 percent rise in deadly traffic accidents. Officials with the DPS list several simple steps drivers can take to reduce the number of fatalities on Minnesota roads:

• Wearing seat belts.

• Driving at safe speeds.

• Not driving after drinking.

• Paying attention to traffic signs and to surrounding conditions.

Seat belt use has been on the rise for the past several years nationwide. The number of people wearing safety belts is higher in states that have a primary seat belt law, like Minnesota. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to pull over and ticket motorists if they or their passengers are not wearing seat belts, while under secondary laws a police officer may only ticket a driver for failing to buckle up if the officer pulled over the vehicle for another reason. Proper use of seat belts can reduce fatalities by 45 percent for car passengers and 60 percent for those in light trucks.

Driving at a safe rate of speed also reduces the likelihood of being in a fatal car crash. Excessive speeding results in the following: higher potential of losing control of a vehicle; greater distance required to stop a speeding vehicle; less time for the driver to respond to changes in traffic; and more severe crashes with increased numbers of injuries and worse injuries than cars travelling at a safe speed.

Over 30 percent of fatal wrecks in 2012 were alcohol-related. For several previous years, the percentage of drunk driving deaths was similar. If this year follows the trend, that would result in almost 150 fatalities.

Driver attentiveness is paramount to safe driving. Motorists have more distractions in their cars today than ever before. Keeping one's eyes and mind focused on the task at hand, in this case driving, helps prevent accidents of all types.

In the event of an accident

If you have been injured because of another driver's negligence, you should contact an experienced Minnesota attorney to determine your rights under the law. A personal injury lawyer can help you recover the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.