Road work in Baudette, Minnesota.

New Project: COVID-19 Impacts on Speed and Safety for Rural Roads and Work Zones

Although Minnesotans drove significantly less in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a substantial increase in fatal motor vehicle crashes.  MnDOT Traffic Safety Engineer Derek Leuer and his colleagues want to know why, particularly in rural areas where fatalities and injury rates were higher. 

“With COVID-19, we have this major disruption of our transportation system,” Leuer said. “What are we not seeing? What are the longer-term impacts and implications of this interruption of traffic, particularly on speeding and safety?”

According to a preliminary report published in December 2020, Minnesota traffic-related fatalities numbered 394 for the year, up from 364 in 2019. Fatalities related to speeding rose significantly across the state, from 72 in 2019 to 118 in 2020. 


A new research project co-sponsored by MnDOT and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board will document differences in speed and volume along select MnDOT rural corridors and work zones before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This will help quantify differences in travel speeds due to lower volumes and COVID-19 conditions, and inform agency decisions about potential countermeasures, enforcement and messaging strategies.

As part of the study, the research team will:

  1. Identify up to 10 rural transportation corridors and five rural work zones to collect and analyze data on lane departure, speeding and driver inattention.
  2. Collect vehicle speed and crash data from automatic traffic recorders, sensor data and other sources.
  3. Collect relevant law enforcement information on corridor and work zone driving incidents and behavior.
  4. Analyze data to compare pre- and post-COVID-19 speed, volume and enforcement data and produce a final report summarizing quantitative and qualitative findings. 

Project Details

  • Estimated Start Date: 12/1/2020
  • Estimated Completion Date: 7/31/2021
  • Funding: Minnesota Department of Transportation & Local Road Research Board
  • Principal Investigator: Shauna Hallmark 
  • Technical Liaison: Derek Leuer   

Details of the research study work plan and timeline are subject to change.

To receive email updates about this project, visit MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation to subscribe.

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