While summer does not technically begin until June 21, the Memorial Day weekend begins the unofficial start of summer. With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it also means that many people are looking forward to resuming their traditional summer traveling plans. As travel increases, it is time to remind ourselves and our loved ones to follow the rules of the road.

In 2020, law enforcement saw an increase in bad driving habits even though fewer people were traveling. Unfortunately, those bad driving habits seem to have carried over into 2021. The statistics are alarming: in 2019, the Minnesota State Patrol issued 533 citations to drivers for speeds exceeding 100 mph. In 2020, the number of citations issued by the State Patrol to drivers with recorded speed-readings of over 100 mph doubled to 1,068. As of May 20, 2021, the Minnesota State Patrol has already issued 382 citations for driving over 100 mph.

The number of deaths attributed to speed-related crashes has also increased, from 75 deaths in 2019 to 120 deaths in 2020*. Almost half of the deaths in 2020 (50*) occurred during the timeframe of Memorial Day through Labor Day. The preliminary numbers for 2021 are equally grim – 45 deaths through April 30 were attributed to speed-related crashes.

Some may see the statistics and still conclude that speeding is not a big deal. Individuals are annoyed when pulled over for speeding. However, the higher the speed, the greater the risk to both the driver and others around the driver. With increased speed, the driver experiences a greater risk of losing control of the vehicle, and decreased response time. In other words, a speeding driver has less response time available to avoid a crash. When a driver crashes while traveling at a high rate of speed, the severity of crash injuries and risk of death also increases.

Lives are lost due to excessive speeds on our roads. The financial costs are also high when drivers choose to speed. The cost of a speeding ticket varies from $40 (plus court surcharges that vary by county) for traveling up to 10 mph over the speed limit, to $150 (plus a $150 speeding surcharge and court surcharges) for traveling over 31 mph over the speed limit. A driver who is convicted of traveling over 100 mph also may experience a 6-month loss of driver’s license.

Memorial Day to Labor Day are the 100 most traveled days in Minnesota. They are also the 100 deadliest days on Minnesota roadways, as over one-third of deaths on Minnesota roadwayshappen during this timeframe each year. It is time to enjoy a Minnesota summer and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Please slow down and follow the rules of the road.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer is the Nicollet County attorney. Bonnie Petersen is the Nicollet County victim and witness coordinator.

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