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Ask a Trooper: Vehicle miles traveled

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From Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol

Question:

I know that Minnesota is doing well to lower its fatality rate, but do we have the stats on the vehicle miles traveled in relation to our fatality numbers? How are we doing overall in recent years compared to the past?

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Answer:

The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rate is something that is tracked by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Office of Traffic Safety. This information from DPS is offered to answer your question:

The VMT-based fatality rate for 2012 is 0.69, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. The VMT fatality rate has shown dramatic improvement in the last five decades—it was 5.52 in 1966!

Our best year since 1944 was in 2011, when the VMT-based fatality rate was 0.65, again one of the lowest in the nation.

DPS’ online records only go back to 2004, but I know that we did have a spike with 657 deaths that year. Since 2002, the fatal count has gone down every year except 2007 and 2012. Because of the decrease in traffic deaths, the VMT-based fatality rate for 2004 was 1.00. This is a decrease from 2003 when the fatality rate was 1.18. However, the VMT fatality rate has shown dramatic improvement in the last three decades. For example, 1990 had a rate of 1.47, 1980 had a rate of 3.03, and 1970 had a rate of 4.41. Of course, this means that as more drivers travel more miles each year, the number of people killed in proportion to the number of miles driven has decreased (as a general rule).

The fatality rate in Minnesota per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remains low and we likely won’t know the 2013 driving year stats for a few months into 2014. As I write this, we are nearing the end of the year and are running similar to last year, but we still have time to lower that rate.

Law enforcement is working very hard with special enforcement projects to help lower our VMT fatality rate. You can do your part if you slow down, buckle up, drive sober and pay attention. Thanks for asking.

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