Officials On Alert for Increased Driving Deaths, Grill Fires Memorial Day thru Labor Day

This Memorial Day comes after one of the deadliest summers on record for Minnesota Motorists.

DULUTH, Minn.- As many get ready to break out the grills and coolers this Memorial Day weekend, it comes in the shadow of one of the deadliest years on record for Minnesota roads last year. So officials are making sure everyone has a safe holiday, behind the wheel and at home.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the 100 most traveled days of the year, but according to state troopers, it’s also the 100 deadliest days on Minnesota roads.

“When the temperatures kind of increase and the roads are clear and it’s nice out people tend to make a little more riskier decisions when they’re behind the wheel,” said Lt. Gordon Shank. “That’s what we’ve noticed and we see those drivers that are going over 100 mph or someone that’s made the decision to drive after having too much to drink.”

So far this year there have been 124 traffic fatalities.

But this season’s coming after the deadliest in 14 years — 167 motorists died in the summer of 2021 alone.

“While we’re seeing positive trends here this year we have a lot of work to do,” Lt. Shank said.

Big Dps

Traffic Fatalities during 100 Most Traveled Days. Credit: Minnesota Department of Public Safety


“We continue to see these crashes and these things happen and it takes a toll on our troopers and it’s hard to break that news to the family,” he said.

The State Patrol’s Highway Enforcement for Aggressive Traffic or HEAT patrols will be laser-focused on speed and criminal activity this summer. Troopers will also be on the roads in force monitoring motorists’ seat belts.

“It’s a team effort. We can’t enforce our way out of it,” said the Lieutenant. “We can write citations, warnings all day to motorists on the roadways but ultimately it’s a group effort we need people to speak up.”

While law enforcement is on high alert for the 100 deadliest driving days to kickoff this weekend, Memorial Day is also the start of another safety concern for firefighters.

“We definitely see more grilling-related calls it’s the start of the season and people forget how to do it safely,” said Superior Fire Asst. Chief Howard Huber.

Barbecuers should fire up their grills 15 feet away from any structure. But according to AC Huber, it’s not just the flames they should pay attention to.

“The biggest thing we see when people bring out their grills is they don’t realize how dangerous the ashes are from the grill. Usually, when we have a fire it’s because of ashes that weren’t disposed of properly that even 2-3 days later it can find some oxygen and start a fire.”

Ashes should be completely soaked and thrown out in metal containers or fire rings.

Memorial Day through Labor Day is the 100 busiest days for firefighters, too. And alcohol seems to cause danger at home as well as on the roads.

“One common factor we see in a lot of the calls we go on in this time of year, they’re related to irresponsible drinking,” said the Assistant Chief.

So make sure responsibility and safety are next to the burgers on your holiday checklist.

“We want people to have a great time enjoy the weekend the long weekend spend it with your friends, family, however you choose to spend it just make sure you do it safely and we can get to where we want to go safely and we can get home safely,” Lt. Shank said.

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