Weather Forecast


Traffic deaths down dramatically in Minn.

Emergency personnel respond April 15, 2009, to a fatal crash at the intersection of North Business 71 and 23rd Street Northeast near the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in north Willmar. While the number of fatal crashes decreased across both the region and the state last year, Renville County experienced an large amount of fatals, with 11 people losing their lives. Tribune file photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- In Minnesota, 403 people lost their lives as a result of traffic crashes in 2009, the lowest number of highway fatalities since 356 people died on the road in 1944. The preliminary number was released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and may rise as more reports are received, according to a news release from the department. The final numbers will be available in the summer.

While the state's fatality numbers dropped, it was a particularly deadly year on the roads of Renville County, where 11 people lost their lives in 2009.

There isn't a particular reason for that high number, according to County Sheriff Jerry Agre, who said he reviewed the statistics earlier this week.

"It goes in streaks," the sheriff said, noting that one year, a county may have one or two traffic deaths, and many more the next year. "We'd like to see zero."

In both 2007 and 2008, Renville County had one traffic fatality, according to Department of Public Safety numbers.

Bad winter weather and road conditions do play a role in traffic conditions and deaths. Three of the deaths were in one crash, on Feb. 21 on U.S. Highway 71 at the county line with Kandiyohi County. Three members of the Kingstrom family from Sacred Heart died when their vehicle collided head-on with another vehicle during a snowstorm.

They were Fred E. Kingstrom, 89, and Ebba M. Kingstrom, 83, both of Sacred Heart, and their daughter, Andrea J. Kingstrom, 44, of Bird Island. They were passengers in a vehicle driven by Mark F. Kingstrom, 54, of Sacred Heart.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety uses a statistic based on the death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The estimated rate for 2009 is 0.75, less than one person killed per 100 million miles, which is the lowest ever in the state and among the lowest in the country.

The rate was 0.79 in 2008. By comparison, the rate for 1966 was 5.52.

The 2009 data show that three people each died on the roads of Kandiyohi and Chippewa counties, four perished in Meeker County and two people each died in traffic crashes in Swift and Pope counties. Lac qui Parle County had one fatality, and no one died in a traffic crash in Yellow Medicine County in 2009. For more, see the chart that accompanies this story.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

(320) 214-4373