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Official: Rash of crashes can be attributed to 'spring fever,' carelessness

MINNEAPOLIS -- Spring fever has hit state drivers hard, leading to poor choices and a rash of car crashes that have killed at least 16 people in four days, a state traffic safety official said Tuesday.

Roadside memorial
Curt Johnson places flowers Sunday along a highway where six people were killed in a two-car crash about half a mile west of Cambridge. A rash of crashes have claimed 16 lives across Minnesota the past four days. AP Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff

MINNEAPOLIS -- Spring fever has hit state drivers hard, leading to poor choices and a rash of car crashes that have killed at least 16 people in four days, a state traffic safety official said Tuesday.

Since Friday, three teen-agers have died in a pickup rollover in southeastern Minnesota. Six people were killed early Sunday in a head-on crash near Cambridge. Three people died Monday when their sport utility vehicle smashed into a truck in Dakota County. Seven of the dead in those and other crashes are teens.

Director Cheri Marti of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety says the spate of fatal accidents is an aberration.

But she says driver behavior is the common thread.

"It really is about driver choice and people not taking driving seriously," Marti said.

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With the early warm weather and dry pavement, road speeds are increasing, Marti said. Normally, the state would not see such a stretch of deadly accidents until the summer months, she said.

"We seem to be starting far earlier now," Marti said. "I think people are potentially getting a bit of spring fever, and some of the risky choices" such as speeding, drinking and driving, and not wearing seat belts.

"We need to continue the education and support" to reduce traffic fatalities, Witter said. That includes enforcing state laws requiring seat belts and banning drivers from texting. he said.

But some motorists, apparently out of a sense of personal freedom, refuse to wear seat belts, said Lt. Matt Langer, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol.

"There's just a segment of the public that, for some reason, they think they're invincible or the law doesn't apply to them," Langer said.

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