We’ve seen a number of tragic accidents recently in the Mille Lacs Lake community. Perhaps it’s because the lake community is buzzing like many have never seen it, but it could also be due to people speeding and not paying attention.
Some of the recent crashes have resulted in loss of life, unfortunately. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported that 120 motorists have died in speed-related crashes in 2020, the most since 2008 which had 125 deaths. There is a 115% increase in speeding-related deaths from this time last year. We’ve had three fatalities in the last three months in the Mille Lacs area alone.
Also according to DPS, speed contributed to 30% of all traffic fatalities in 2020, and the Minnesota State Patrol issued more than 1,068 speeding tickets for speeds in excess of 100 mph, compared to the 533 tickets issued for the same speed levels in 2019.
Most penalties result in a fine and petty misdemeanor but is raised to a misdemeanor if the speeding violation endangers people or property or the driver has had two prior traffic convictions in the past year.
A misdemeanor conviction can mean up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines. Misdemeanor penalties also apply for careless driving and reckless driving. Reckless driving includes racing on public streets or highways. Fines double and can be up to $300 for speeding 20 mph over the speed limit and if going over 100 mph, drivers can lose their license for six months.
We have heard that law enforcement around the state is cracking down on speeding because of this phenomenon. Take for example this 20-year-old Bemidji man.
The Star Tribune reported in mid-May that troopers first caught the lead-footed motorist about 1:50 p.m. near Grand Rapids going 73 mph in an area with a speed limit of 60. About 20 minutes later, a trooper caught him traveling 76 mph in another 60 mph zone. The third trooper clocked him at 78 mph in a 65 mph zone about 4:20 p.m. near Bemidji, the man’s hometown.
“A tough day for this slow learner,” the patrol said in a tweet.
Officials believe that in 2020, when the stay-at-home orders were issued, motorists took advantage of the open roads and drove fast, a pattern that has continued into 2021.
So please be mindful of speed and surroundings. You may not be speeding but someone else may be. Or they may be driving while on drugs or intoxicated. We have seen a fair share of that as well, so please be on the defensive when driving. It may save you and your loved one’s life and allow you to enjoy all that the Mille Lacs community has to offer.
Traci LeBrun is the editor of the Messenger.