In Minnesota, More Driving And Less Dying

June 21, 2011

Photo Credit: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Minnesota is careening toward a government shutdown. A host of national political figures are railing against public spending.

So it’s fair to say taxation and government programs are top of mind for a lot of people.

Regardless of where you come down in the discussion, a bit of news today in Minnesota may provide some interesting fodder for those looking for examples of the government getting it right.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced today that 411 people died in traffic crashes in the state in 2010. That’s the lowest total since 1944.

The data is even more striking when you consider how many more vehicles are out there and how much more we’re driving than we did in the 1940s. The fatality rate for every 100 million miles Minnesotans drive is .72 — the lowest rate on record.

More cars, more drivers, more miles driven — and far fewer deaths. Here are the main reasons why this is happening: Seat belts, safer cars, air bags, safer roads, better medical care and DWI enforcement.

It would be hard to argue that the progress in traffic safety would have happened without government intervention. The fact is that the auto industry resisted federal laws mandating seat belts, air bags and other safety equipment. Cars would not be as safe as they are today without those laws. Laws requiring people to buckle up — and associated public education campaigns encouraging seat-belt usage — also have saved lives.

Seat belt usage and traffic fatalities in Minnesota

Source: Minnesota Safety Council

Another success story is the ongoing effort to combat drunken driving. Laws have gotten stiffer and enforcement tougher — and the results show. In the 1960s, alcohol played a role in more than 60 percent of traffic deaths each year. That figure is now down to about 33 percent per year.

So what do you think? Good government in action? Or are we missing something here?