ST. PAUL — Minnesota Public Safety officials on Monday, Oct. 18, urged drivers to limit their speeds and to take extra precautions as traffic deaths were on pace to hit a 14-year high.

Department heads reported that 392 people have died on Minnesota roads since the beginning of the year compared to 313 at this time in 2020. At current rates, the state could see 475 traffic deaths this year, public safety officials said. That would be the most since 2007.

Speed-related accidents are fueling the increase in fatalities, they said. So far this year 124 people have died in crashes where excessive speed was reported, up 27% from a year prior and up 107% from 2019.

"In the last 15 months we have rolled back 15 years worth of traffic safety work," Paul Aasen, president of the Minnesota Safety Council, said. "Within a year and a half, we've lost a decade and a half of time."

RECENT FATAL ACCIDENT IN MINNESOTA:

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The department, Minnesota Safety Council, AAA and other groups said they planned to take an education campaign to employers around the state to remind motorists about safe driving habits. They said employers have a broad reach and are trusted. And they asked Minnesota drivers to practice basic safe driving techniques to limit their risk on the road.

"It's simple: drive the speed limit, pay attention, don't drink and drive, and wear your seatbelt every single time you get in the vehicle," Minnesota State Patrol Chief Matt Langer said. "Those four simple things are all that we need to do in order to drastically reduce and, in fact, almost eliminate traffic crashes on our roads, especially fatal ones."

Langer and others said the surging traffic fatality rates are worrisome but injuries resulting from crashes were also ticking up as Minnesotans drive at greater speeds or enter into more dangerous driving situations.

Kellen Schmidt, a worker for a Minnesota utility company, in March was sitting in his parked car when a semi-truck crashed into the back and side of his vehicle. Schmidt sustained a traumatic brain injury in the accident that he said has stalled out plans for his family's future and caused daily stress and frustration.

"I can't do the things I want. Every night when I go to bed I just don't even want to wake up the next day," Schmidt said. "Life is not the same and I worry it's never going to be the same again."

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com