- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The northwest region of North Dakota accounted for more than half of the fatal crashes in the state last year, according to data from the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

McKenzie County had 22 fatal crashes in 2013. Before the oil boom started, the county would have maybe two or three a year, the Bismarck Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1s6Wn8B ).

“As a seasoned officer, an officer who has been around, you get hardened to it,” said McKenzie County Sheriff John Fulwider.

Highway Patrol data show the trend holding for 2014. Of 26 fatal crashes through April 25, 15 have occurred in the patrol’s northwest region.

Two counties have felt the increase more than others - McKenzie and Williams - as the population boom has resulted in new work camps, houses, hotels and businesses.

Grant Levi, director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said the state has benefited from the energy boom as well as statewide increases in agricultural yields and manufacturing, but the result has been more traffic.

“We’ve been blessed with a very strong economy,” Levi said.

The patrol’s four regions are not of equal size. The northwest has 11 counties, as does the northeast. The southwest has 17, while the southeast has 15. From 2008-10, the four regions accounted for similar proportions of fatal crashes.

The northwest had 29.9 percent of the crashes in 2008, 32.8 percent in 2009 and 22.8 percent in 2010. But things started to change in 2010. That year, the northwest had 54 of the 130 fatal crashes in the state - 41.5 percent. The total would climb to 70 out of 147 fatal crashes in 2012, for 47.6 percent, then to 71 out of 133 in 2013, for 53.4 percent of the state’s fatal crashes.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Tom Iverson doesn’t believe the increased traffic flow alone can explain the increase in fatal crashes in the northwest. He said the reasons behind the crashes plaguing the oil-producing counties are no different than the issues that plague the state as a whole: speed, unsafe passing, alcohol use and not wearing a seat belt.

“That area is still over-represented,” Iverson said. “It can’t just be blamed on increased population.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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