Minnesota by the numbers: Our not-so-deadly roads

class=img_thumbleft>The Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety--a coalition of insurance, health and consumer groups--thinks Minnesota legislators should be held to account for failing to enact driving laws that would make the state's roads safer. Among other things, according to the Advocates' analysis, Minnesota needs "a primary enforcement seat belt law" (that would allow police to pull motorists over for failure to buckle up), sobriety check points, and a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists.

It may well be that such measures would improve highway safety in Minnesota. But the Advocates' report fails to note one significant fact: statistically speaking, Minnesota roads are pretty darn safe.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1.18 fatalities per 100,000,000 vehicles miles traveled in Minnesota, far below the national average of 1.48. Additionally, Minnesota motorists fared much better than their neighbors in Wisconsin (1.42 deaths per 100,000,000 miles), Iowa (1.42), North Dakota (1.41) and--watch out for Bill Janklow!--South Dakota (2.38).

Those are all 2003 numbers, which was the last year for which such statistics are available. Since then, however, Minnesota roads seem to have become less hazardous. In 2003, there were a total of 655 roadway deaths in the state, compared to 567 in 2004 and 542 in 2005.

What to conclude? Our laws might be lacking, but our drivers and roads are above average. Just like the children of Lake Wobegone.