There is an epidemic underway and that requires a new kind of vaccine.

I don’t mean Covid 19 which dramatically altered our lives four years ago this month. I am talking about the epidemic of crash deaths and injuries due to excess speed and distracted driving.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety recently released its annual report card on the state of Minnesota traffic safety. The 2023 preliminary data report has bright spots. For example, over the last 15 years, the total number of crashes has decreased slightly and is trending downwards. Keep in mind most crashes don’t involve deaths or injuries to people involved and are limited to vehicle or property damage.

The report’s most concerning data shows crash injuries and fatalities due to excessive speed and distraction continue to rise at an epidemic pace. Work from home, emptier roads, and other side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic era have caused too many motorists to ignore both the law and the consequences of excessive speed and behind-the-wheel distractions. Since 2020, 31.4% of all fatalities and 23.2% of all serious injuries resulted from speed-related crashes. Distraction-related crashes are also on the rise. While crash fatality statistics for 2023 have not yet been finalized, it is unfortunate that the number of fatalities could increase.  And, as I write this, through the end of February 2024 the number of crash deaths reported year to date has almost doubled compared to this same time last year.

So, what’s the cure? We in the traffic safety community are going after this epidemic with every resource available including enforcement, education, engineering, and EMS. However, a true cure requires convincing drivers to take responsibility. Based on research, we know it means getting deeply personal with emotion-driven appeals to what matters most – the impact of crashes on our loved ones.

In April we’ll launch the second phase of our Do It for ME campaign, with the additional reminder to Do It for THEM. Once again, we will use compelling voices and realistic experiences to demonstrate the devastating impact on so many when a loved one is killed or seriously injured in a crash caused by excess speed or distraction.

We are counting on each of you and your organizations to reach not only the minds but the hearts of your employees, their families, and others through the extensive Do It for ME/Do It for THEM toolkit of videos, educational materials, and more. Let’s cure this devastating crash epidemic together!

Yours in traffic safety,

Lisa Kons

Minnesota NETS Coordinator