July was the deadliest month of 2011 on Minnesota roads, with 43 traffic deaths across the state. August isn't starting out all that well, either.
In just the first week of August, 13 people died in car accidents, making for the third deadliest week of the year. Unsurprisingly, the week of July 4-10 -- which includes the Fourth of July, an unofficial drinking and driving holiday -- was the most fatal of 2011, with 21 road deaths altogether.
The fatality numbers, which came in an announcement from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, actually aren't so bad, relative to other years. There's been a lot less death on the roads so far this year than last year: At this point, the statewide yearly total is 194, down from 229 at the same point in 2010.
And 2010 was something of a record, with fewer Minnesota traffic deaths, at a total of 411, than any year since 1944.
In other words, unless fatal accidents pick up in fall and winter, Minnesota's on pace to break last year's record low.
Last week's death toll hit the metro area hard, with five of the deaths coming around the Twin Cities, including a motorcyclist who blew through a red light and onto the Hennepin Avenue on-ramp for I-94, where he lost control and flew off his bike into a wall.
The tragedy of the early August deaths is that most of them could have been avoided, according to Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.
"This last week sadly highlighted how driver error leads to road tragedy," Roeske said. "It's not surprising to see an increase in deaths when seat belts aren't worn, when drivers speed and when they don't pay attention. Summertime can be deadly on the road, but it doesn't have to be if motorists make safe decisions."