Preliminary reports indicate that North Dakota had 98 motor vehicle fatalities in 2019 – a total that, if it goes unchanged, would be the first time in 17 years the state has recorded fewer than 100 traffic fatalities. Gov. Doug Burgum thanked the agencies involved in the Vision Zero traffic safety initiative for making a difference and expanding their efforts during the past year.

Since the comprehensive Vision Zero initiative was launched in 2018 by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), Highway Patrol and Department of Health, traffic fatalities in the state have decreased from 116 in 2017 to 105 in 2018 to a preliminary total of 98 in 2019, which would be the lowest total since 97 traffic fatalities were recorded in 2002. It will take up to 30 days to finalize the 2019 total as crash reports and investigations are completed.

“The only acceptable number of deaths on North Dakota roads is zero, and every year that we move closer to that goal represents important progress, because these aren’t just numbers – they’re people’s lives, and every life matters,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful to our Vision Zero partners for their dedication to keeping everyone safe and secure, and to the traveling public who have heeded the initiative’s emphasis on personal responsibility, including driving sober and distraction-free, buckling up and slowing down.”

This past year, Vision Zero was expanded with additional safety measures including more highway safety engineering systems, law enforcement equipment and programs; the establishment of highway safety corridors; crash data improvements and dashboards; and Vision Zero Schools, a new peer-to-peer program in high schools.

“We must keep in mind that lives lost on North Dakota roads are family, friends and community members,” NDDOT Director Bill Panos said. “Of the 98 fatalities, approximately 47% were not wearing their seat belt. Seat belts are the single most effective safety device to prevent death and injury in a motor vehicle crash. We are working to establish a culture of personal responsibility where motor vehicle fatalities are recognized as preventable and not tolerated, because when it comes to those we love, zero is the only acceptable number of lives to lose.” 

Of the 98 motor vehicle fatalities in 2019, 42% were alcohol-related and 25% were speed-related. Victims ranged in age from 3 years old to 93 years old, and 83% were North Dakota residents. By mode of transportation, 74 of the fatalities were in a passenger vehicle, 11 were motorcyclists, five were pedestrians, four were on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and two were bicyclists. One fatality involved a train and 14 involved commercial motor vehicles.

“Vision Zero’s ongoing success requires strong partnerships and buy-in from the public,” said Col. Brandon Solberg, superintendent of the Highway Patrol. “If every driver and passenger chooses to buckle up, and every driver obeys speed limits and traffic laws and drives sober, the vast majority of traffic fatalities would be eliminated. Preventable human behavior contributes to 94% of motor vehicle crashes. Personal responsibility is the foundation of Vision Zero.”

Vision Zero continues to educate through various mediums about the importance of passenger safety and dangers of speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving, including a new “Not Funny” campaign that stresses the importance of always driving sober or finding a sober ride.

“Parents play a vital role in keeping their children safe on the road, no matter the age,” State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte said. “Parents should talk often with their young drivers about alcohol, lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding, and driving with passengers. Young children should always be buckled in a car seat that is installed correctly and appropriate for their age and size.”

For more information, visit https://visionzero.nd.gov/.