Lessons from the 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts

What is the true price of our dependence on automobiles? Those in favor of pedestrian-oriented planning say repeatedly that a large contribution to our automobile economy is the cost of driving is simple too cheap. Although gas prices continually rise, they still lack to reflect the current amount of resources we have, and the impact carbon emissions and automobile infrastructure have on the environment.  But what about the price we are paying from the physical lives automobiles take every year? A first glance at the 2011 crash statistics might cause one to think these statistics are almost ‘expected’ from a  state population in which over 4 million residents own a drivers license (2011 data), however we must take a closer look at how many additional injuries automobiles cause, and the cost that results from these traffic fatalities.

Statistics and Costs of 2011 Crashes 1910-2011 Minnesota Crash Statistics Amount of Cars vs. Fatality Rates

The report,  “Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2011” outlines many of the factors affecting driving fatalities, among them include:

  • Age of driver;
  • Presence of alcohol;
  • Weather conditions;
  • Design of roadway;
  • Use of safety belt;
  • Distraction of driver, and;
  • Engineering and design standards of vehicle performance.

While I found that much of this report was focused on external factors of crashes, and strayed from our dependence on automobile transportation, one portion of the report was blunt concerning our current lifestyle:

“The necessity of getting from one place to another and the efficiency of motor vehicles for this purpose result in significant costs to society.  The National Safety Council reports that crashes (from all causes) are the leading cause of death among persons aged 1 to 34 and the fifth leading cause of death among all persons.”

-Minnesota Department of Public Safety

 The American culture is one who places extreme emphasis on protecting the welfare of our citizens. We dedicate billions for research of cancer and disease. Some willingly send themselves overseas to fight for our freedom. For an industry that has such an impact on the lifespan of our residents, we should place a deep concern on creating innovative alternates to a transportation mode that has a label of a leading cause of death. Transportation should be a cause of joy, bringing us to new places and connecting us with old friends. Death, and joy. We as planners, engineers, designers, and activists have the potential to make this differentiation.


Tables by Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Data linked to sources. 

Abbey Seitz

About Abbey Seitz

Abbey Seitz, Minnesota native, is a professional urban and regional planner based in Honolulu. Her experience in planning and community organizing in Hawai’i has played a distinct role in her writing, leading her to question why and how places, cities, and regions came to be as they are. She recently released her first book, Perseverance Flooded the Streets.

5 thoughts on “Lessons from the 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Safety conversations tend to focus on enforcement and education campaigns, when they should be focusing on engineering solutions like traffic calming and narrower lanes. It’s a paradox, but only by making our streets more dangerous for cars will we make them safer for everyone.

  2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    Nationally, it’s roughly the equivalent of a plane crash every day. If we had a plane coming down in America every day, with non-stop death, there would be a Congressional committee right away and maybe even a grounding of the entire system. But we don’t think twice about the same amount of death on our roads and streets.

    On Wednesday, I listened to a presentation by the Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner. He had a pie chart of the death certificates issued by his office, and 10% were from suicide. He rightfully noted this as a major public health crisis that nobody talks about. But 5% on the chart was accidental death relating to motor vehicle accidents, which is ALSO a major public health crisis that nobody talks about.

  3. Liz

    Another interesting fact: The average fatality rate for all crashes is 5.1/1,000. But for a collision of a motor vehicle with a pedestrian, it’s nearly 10 times higher, 48.1/1,000. (Only colliding with a train or submerging the vehicle have a higher fatality rate). This seems like an area worthy of focus for prevention efforts. Seatbelts don’t do anything for the pedestrian you hit!

  4. minneapolisite

    Every car should have a big warning stamped on the side like they do on boxes of cigarettes.

    I disagree that redesigning streets to be safer for cyclists and pedestrians makes them more dangerous for motorists. Motorists, by being forced to drive slower, are much safer since collisions between them are occurring at slower speeds and are more likely to be fender benders than crashes that do damage to drivers and/or vehicles. Motorists love, love, love to drive, right? Well, slower streets allow them to do more of what they love.

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