Traffic deaths in Minnesota hit a grim number over the weekend.
The state passed 300 traffic deaths so far this year, a number not seen until Oct. 31 last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The 302 deaths as of Monday were 17 more than the 285 reported on this day in 2017.
The most recent fatalities include a Big Lake man who was fatally struck while crossing a highway in Becker, and two young women from Shakopee whose vehicle went off a Carver County road and into a pond.
Francis Pittman, 66, of Big Lake was hit and killed while crossing Hwy. 10 in Becker. Pittman was the 29th pedestrian, and most recent victim, to die in a crash.
The bodies of Bushra Abdi and Zeynab “Hapsa” Abdalla, 19-year-old cousins, were pulled from a Chaska pond last week. They drowned after their car veered off the road at the intersection of Hwy. 41 and White Oak Drive.
As in previous years, the four top contributing factors for traffic deaths were alcohol, speed, distraction and no seat belts.
Drunken driving was a factor in 93 fatal wrecks, making it the leading cause of death so far this year. That was followed by 80 deaths attributed to speed, 65 to drivers who did not wear seat belts and 20 caused by distracted driving.
However, the number of people using their cellphones is on the rise, while speeding and impaired driving are on a downward trend, Mike Hanson, who heads the Office of Traffic Safety with the Department of Public Safety, told the Star Tribune in March.
Distracted driving is responsible for one in four crashes on Minnesota roads, according to public safety officials. From 2012 to 2016, it contributed, on average, to 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries annually in the state.
In comparison, speeding contributed to an average of 82 deaths and 249 serious injuries each during that same period. Not buckling up contributed to an average of 97 deaths and 209 serious injuries each year from 2012 to 2016. Impaired driving killed 73 people in 2016.
July and September have been the deadliest months with 41 fatalities each. October has been the fifth deadliest so far with 33 fatalities. March had the fewest deaths with 18.
The year’s fatalities include 195 people in motor vehicles, 58 motorcyclists, six bicyclists and 14 classified as “other,” meaning they were on farm machinery, all-terrain vehicles or undetermined modes of transportation, DPS officials said.
Preliminary data show that 145 people died in single-vehicle crashes while 157 died in crashes involving multiple vehicles.
Men make up 72 percent of those who died, DPS said.
Since the state departments of Transportation, Public Safety and Health launched the Toward Zero Death (TZD) initiative in 2003, traffic deaths in Minnesota decreased from 655 that year to 358 in 2017.
Modeled after a safety program in Sweden, TZD uses education, engineering, enforcement of safety laws and enhanced emergency medical and trauma services to pare highway deaths.
It is too soon to tell how this year will compare.
Staff writer Mary Lynn Smith contributed to this report.