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National I-90/94 Challenge falls short of zero deaths goal

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A 96-hour, coast-to-coast challenge to reduce the number of fatalities on two of the most heavily traveled interstates fell short of its goal.

A single-vehicle crash early Monday morning on Interstate 90 in Montana left one person dead and nine people injured when an SUV rolled over. Most of the occupants weren't wearing seat belts, according to a news release.

This was the only fatality reported by any of the 15 states, including Minnesota, that participated in the I-90/94 Challenge, which aimed for a death-free weekend on the two interstates.

During the weekend challenge, which ran from Aug. 1-4, officials increased patrols on the more than 5,600 miles of roadway from Massachusetts to Washington in an attempt to reduce the number of traffic deaths and crashes, the Minnesota State Patrol said.

Over the past three years, that stretch of roadway has averaged 524 total crashes, 136 crashes causing injury and three fatal crashes over the same four-day period, the state patrol says.

Data for the number of crashes on the interstates over the weekend in Minnesota hasn't been released.

During the challenge, law enforcement officials across the country posted to Twitter using the hashtag #9094Challenge to encourage motorists to drive sober, be attentive and wear their seat belts. Officials also launched a Thunderclap campaign for people to support the challenge.

“We always come back to the basic stuff,” Lt. Col. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol told KARE 11 about some common reasons for crashes. “It’s speeding, it’s not wearing seat belts, it’s impaired driving and it’s distracted driving.”

Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been running various statewide campaigns in recent years to reduce the number of fatalities on the state’s roads as part of its “Toward Zero Deaths” initiative.

Most recently, the DPS and the state patrol teamed up for an 18-day speed enforcement campaign in July to help drivers recognize the importance of obeying the speed limit. The DPS says speed has been a factor in nearly one of every four fatal crashes in Minnesota over the last 10 years.

During last month's campaign, 16,926 drivers were cited for speeding – the fastest was traveling at 125 mph, according to a news release.

Agencies around the state cited at least 14 drivers traveling more than 100 mph. A list of speeding citations and highest speed by participating agencies can be found here.

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