Beware the nation’s worst drivers

Mike KnaakColumn, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Time to drive. We’re heading into the best time of year for motoring to the lake, picnics, parades and sporting events.

But beware. When you get behind the wheel, know you are entering the danger zone.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Memorial Day through Labor Day marks the 100 deadliest days on Minnesota roads. In 2018, that period accounted for 33 percent of the year’s 381 traffic deaths.

Driver behavior – speed, distraction, lack of seat-belt use and drunken driving – are the top contributing factors in Minnesota road fatalities.

Of the 124 people who died during the deadly 100 days last summer, drunks killed 36, speed killed 30, nine died without seat belts and distractions killed 18.

Law enforcement will target speeding drivers with extra patrols through July 21. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over extra enforcement campaign runs Aug. 16-Sept. 2.

You may be a safe driver. You obey the speed limit, don’t drink and drive, buckle up and keep your hands on the wheel and off the phone. But don’t assume your fellow drivers are doing the same. Actually, odds are they aren’t safe drivers.

The insurance website Quote Wizard analyzed more than 2 million data points from incident reports and data from the Federal Highway Administration to rank the states with the worst drivers. The data included accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, citations and fatalities.

In the list of states with the worst drivers, Minnesota ranked sixth, behind Maine, South Carolina, Nebraska, California and North Dakota.

If you want to share the road with the nation’s best drivers, head to Michigan. On your way, beware of Wisconsin drivers, ranked 17th worst, but you can feel safer traveling through Illinois ranked 46th.

Minnesota roads may be safer later this summer when two new traffic laws take effect on Aug. 1.

Slower drivers better stick to the right lane or face a $50 fine plus a $75 surcharge. Slower drivers were always required to keep right, but the new law adds the fine. Drivers are required to move out of the left lane on interstates or multi-lane roads after passing slower vehicles. The law doesn’t quantify how slow a vehicle must be traveling in the left lane in order to be cited. It just states, “a person must move out of the left-most lane to allow another vehicle to pass” when practical.

The State Patrol notes this law does not allow drivers to speed. The slowpoke law will only result in a ticket if motorists in the left lane are slowed below the speed limit by a motorist who doesn’t move over.

The law could reduce road rage incidents.

Holding your phone or texting while driving will also be illegal starting Aug. 1. Drivers must use voice commands or a single-touch without holding the phone to make calls or use navigation. Violators face a $50 ticket for the first offense and subsequent tickets will cost $275 plus court fees.

Obey the speed limit, buckle up, put down the phone. Maybe next time there’s worst driver research, Minnesota won’t rank so high on the list.

Author: Mike Knaak

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