ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Father's Day weekend in Minnesota proved to be one of the deadliest weekends on the roads in almost two years with 11 people dying in eight crashes, according to the Department of Public Safety. It's the most deaths in one weekend on Minnesota roads since October 14-16 in 2016.
Of the 11 people who died, five were riding a motorcycle. Among them included an off-duty Blaine police officer and his wife, who died in a crash in Elk River. Another motorcyclist, who was seen driving near 100 miles per hour shortly before a police chase, died in a crash shortly after.
So far this month, 10 motorcyclists have been killed in Minnesota, the same number for all of June 2017.
“Boy to see as many fatalities this month as we had all of last June is tragic, and to lose five fellow riders on a weekend is just sad," said Bill Shaffer, Motorcycle Safety Coordinator for the Office of Traffic Safety. "I really feel bad for those families because those are people that aren’t coming home that they’re not going to see again.”
Five victims died while riding in a vehicle and one was a pedestrian. Most of the crashes happened within the seven-country metro.
In Vermillion Saturday night, a two-vehicle crash claimed the lives of two fathers just a day before Father's Day, when one of the drivers ran a stop sign.
According to the Minnesota State Patrol, speed was a factor in several of the deadly accidents this weekend. Alcohol and drugs were also factors in some of the crashes.
“Don’t drive impaired, follow the speed limit, wear your seatbelt and put all the distractions away," said Lt. Tiffani Nielson with Minnesota State Patrol. "Those are really four key things everybody can take ownership of, be responsible for as a driver, and for other people they drive with. Speak up if the driver is doing any of these unsafe actions.”
Nielson says the warm weather may also play a role.
“With this hot weather, we do see a higher incidence of fatal crashes. People are driving faster, they’re more prone to drink alcohol, be out and about, and on a winter day, it’s really quiet. We have a lot of fender benders but not a lot of fatal crashes,” Nielson said. “These crashes can happen anywhere in the state of Minnesota and it does require the responsibility of the driver to make good decisions, and we will enforce when laws are broken but we can’t be everywhere at all times."
According to preliminary data, 33 people have already died during the "100 deadliest days" on Minnesota roads, which started on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. Last year, there were 26 crash deaths during the first three weeks of the 100-day stretch. There have been 146 total crash deaths so far this year, compared to 137 deaths this time last year.
Authorities are encouraging drivers to look twice for motorcycles and give them plenty of room and urging riders to dress brightly and wear a helmet. Of the 19 motorcycle deaths this year, only four were wearing helmets.