Holiday traffic deaths in Minn. lower than last yearby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A statewide campaign to reduce reckless driving and nab drunk drivers during the recent holiday weekend appears to have paid off.
Preliminary numbers show that fewer people died on Minnesota roads this Fourth of July weekend than last year, according to a spokesman with the State Patrol.
In all, seven people died during weekend -- one less than the same period last year, according to State Patrol Spokesman Lt. Matt Langer.
The fatalities included:
Four people who were killed Saturday morning after a van left a highway northeast of Detroit Lakes and struck a raised section of the ditch, then rolled over.
The van had seven occupants in it, four of whom were ejected when the van struck the field approach.
The four victims --- who have not yet been identified --- were all from the Pinepoint-Ponsford area and included two men, ages 28 and 35, and two women, ages 22 and 24, according to the Becker County Sheriff's Office.
In a separate accident Saturday morning, Rachel M. Olson, 29, of Cokato, died after she lost control of the 1991 Dodge Caravan she was driving, then veered off the road and rolled into a ditch. Olson was ejected and died at the scene.
Just south of the city of Renville, Raymond M. Nelson, 55 of Gibbon, also died on Saturday morning after his car collided with another at the intersection of Renville County Roads 6 and 17.
And four-month-old Wyatt Sander died after he and his mother, Sheena Hinshaw, were run over by a van while resting in a tent in Beaver Falls, a county park a few miles northeast of Redwood Falls.
Authorities say holidays are dangerous times of the year for Minnesota motorists, because more drivers hit the road after a few drinks and there are an increased number of motorists traveling at all hours. They credit the enhanced DWI patrols during the weekend for the decrease.
"We had troopers and officers and deputies out working in 13 of the deadliest counties focusing on getting the impaired drivers off the roads and preventing them from driving in the first place," Langer said.
Between Friday night and noon on Sunday, Langer said the State Patrol had arrested 83 drunk drivers. He said the total number of arrests will likely increase when individual agencies add their totals.
Last year, alcohol-related crashes accounted for five of the eight motorists killed on the Fourth of July. Another 1,819 motorists were arrested for DWI, officials said.