Speed adds toxic component to Wright County roads

November 5, 2007

The state says Wright has its share of speeders; but distracted driving and seatbelts play a part in fatal accidents, too

By Lynda Jensen

A five-year study recently released by the state reinforces the idea that Wright County has its share of speeders on the road.

The speed study, which was conducted from 2002 to 2006, rated Wright County as the ninth highest out of 87 counties in the state for overall traffic deaths, and 16th for speed-related deaths. See graph.

For a high population county, Wright incurs its share of speeders, but there are several factors involved when it comes to deadly crashes, commented Lt. Dan Anselment.

“There are three factors in fatal accidents – distracted driving, impaired driving, and the lack of seat belts,” he said.

In fact, last week two fatal accidents took place that were deadly because of the lack of using seat belts – one in Middleville Township with a Winsted driver, and another young woman who was on the Interstate in Albertville.

The Middleville accident was also likely related to speed, he said. In the Albertville accident, the female driver was ejected from her vehicle, which rolled over and crushed her.

Wright County is 10th in the state for population, however several counties with low populations (Cass, Goodhue, Pine, Rice, and Douglas) received disproportionate numbers of speeders, which dropped Wright County lower on the list for speed related deaths.

According to the study, there were almost twice as many speed-related fatal crashes in rural areas (less than 5,000 population) as there were in urban areas (506 versus 258), according to the report.

Anselment pointed out that some of the smaller counties, such as Sherburne, were fast-growing in population, and that this probably was a factor as well. See graph.

During that period, area counties were recorded as follows:

• Carver County registered 14 speed-related deaths, with a total of 44 total traffic fatalities (pop. 87,545).
• McLeod County had seven speed-related deaths with a total traffic fatalities of 25 (pop. 37,279).
• Meeker County had five speed-related deaths with an overall 24 total traffic crashes (pop. 23,405).

The study also indicated that only 14 percent of speed-related crashes occured on an interstate.

“Younger drivers who speed are in grave danger — illegal or unsafe speed accounted for 30 percent of the factors cited in fatal crashes for drivers under age 30,” according to the report, “compared to only 6 percent of the factors cited for drivers age 65 and older.”

Previously, Wright County has been listed for the past several years on the top 10 list of counties with high numbers of drivers who drive while intoxicated.

For 2006, the top 13 deadliest counties for impaired drivers were:

1. Hennepin
2. Ramsey
3. Anoka
4. St. Louis
5. Dakota
6. Stearns
7. Washington
8. Wright
9. Crow Wing
10. Blue Earth
11. Scott
12. Itasca
13. Sherburne

Last year, Wright County registered 695 total DWI incidents in 2005, which is 60 percent higher than the state average of 425 for that year, according to an in-depth report released by the state in the spring.

Current figures reflect the same trend for Wright County, with the county placing eighth on the list of 87 counties for the top number of crashes involving impaired drivers.

In 2006, approximately 36 percent of all fatal accidents across the state were associated with impaired drivers, but Wright County had an average of 50 percent.