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What's behind the surge in Minnesota's fatal crashes this year?

Deadly crashes up this year on Minnesota roads
Deadly crashes up this year on Minnesota roads 01:59

ST. PAUL, Minn. – It's no secret that Minnesota's winter of 2023-2024 was unlike many in recent memory. After one of the snowiest winters ever – drivers got a bit of a break this year. No snow and ice should make for safer driving – right? 

Yet 58 days into the new year, Minnesota has tallied 50 fatal crashes across the state – that's 18 more than this year at the same time. 

"I think it is an odd year, the weather does play a factor in that," said Lt. Jill Frankfurth of Minnesota State Patrol. "We have clear roads, warm weather, sunny skies, people are driving more like we see summer weather."

MORE: How is Minnesota's unusually warm winter affecting the moose population?

Frankfurth says while the winter elements lead to more crashes – the conditions typically lead people to drive slower, meaning crashes are rarely fatal. 

With clear roads, she says they've seen an uptick in speeding and distracted driving. 

"The speeds are higher, and the crashes more intense," she said. "Maybe there is a false sense of 'I can speed'."

"It does seem like when the weathers nice, [people] take more chance, because the possibility of hitting snow and ice is less," said Tina Wade of Minneapolis. 

Frankfurth says troopers are encouraging drivers to slow down, wear a seatbelt, and avoid distractions and avoid driving impaired. 

"We're always out there," she said. "We're trying to make sure everybody gets to and from where they need to go safely, and not affected by someone's poor decision behind the wheel."

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