The Potluck

392 Minnesotans killed in car crashes so far this year

By: - October 18, 2021 2:58 pm

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Minnesota is on track for its highest number of car crash deaths in at least 14 years, with 392 people killed in crashes so far, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced Monday.

There were 397 people killed in car crashes in all of 2020, when fatalities spiked as reckless driving increased during the pandemic. Minnesota safety officials on Monday implored drivers to obey speed limits, eliminate distractions and wear seatbelts to curb the wave of injuries and deaths.

“I hope people start paying attention to these deaths as much as they do other deaths,” said Booker Hodges, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, during a news conference. “A lot of these deaths are strictly preventable.”

Minnesota has reported 124 speed-related deaths so far this year, Hodges said, urging drivers to “slow the — you insert the four-letter word here — down.” That’s up from 120 speed-related deaths in all of 2020 and 75 in 2019.

On top of the deaths, nearly 40,000 people have been injured in crashes this year, said Paul Aasen, president of the Minnesota Safety Council.

One of them is Kellen Schmidt, a utility company worker who was rear-ended by a semi in spring 2021. Schmidt suffered a traumatic brain injury that causes severe headaches, forced him to leave work and put his and his wife’s plans to start a family on hold. 

“I can’t sleep. Going to bed, it feels like somebody is literally taking a knife and cutting my brain out,” he said. “Life is just not the same. I worry life is never going to be the same again.”

Aasen said drivers should focus on safety by leaving extra space between the car in front of them, buckling up and slowing down, especially on residential streets. 

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.