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RED WING-- Memorial Day was the kickoff to summer and, for many, summer travels. Studies indicate that 56% of Americans are more likely to take a road trip this year than in 2020. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, around the state traffic levels are approaching or have returned to pre-pandemic levels. In the Twin Cities traffic levels are around 85% of the pre-pandemic levels. 

MnDOT posted on its Facebook page this weekend, “more cars means more traffic, so give yourself extra time to travel.” 

Here’s how to stay safe while traveling on the road this summer: 

1. Be aware of road construction

Red Wing will have Old West Main Street reconstruction this year. This year will also see a mill and overlay and pedestrian ramp construction throughout the community. Planned portions of the project are: 

  • West Fourth Street (East Avenue to Bluff Street)

  • Plum Street (Main Street and north)

  • Ninth Street (Central Avenue to East Avenue)

  • Emmett Avenue (Learning Lane and south)

  • Learning Lane (the school exit to Emmet Avenue)

  • Aspen Avenue (Learning Lane to Nordic Drive)

  • Hi Park Avenue (Henning Avenue to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road)

  • Carol Lane (Helen Lane to Graves Drive)

Motorists traveling on Highway 316 between Malcolm Avenue and Tuttle Drive in Hastings will encounter a full closure and detour of Highway 316 as crews begin a project to reconstruct Hwy 316 and add three roundabouts. The closures of Hwy 316 will be done in stages to minimize some of the impacts during construction.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 24, Hwy 316 will be closed and detoured between Malcolm Avenue and Tuttle Drive. Motorists should follow the signed regional detour using Hwy 61 to bypass Highway 316 and the closure area.

2. Make sure your vehicle is ready

Any vehicle that hasn’t been driven recently should be checked to be sure it is safe to travel in, WisDOT suggests. Inspections should include checking tire pressure, fluid levels and others as needed. 

It is also smart to keep an emergency kit inside your vehicle. Kits should include fresh water, snacks and a first aid kit, as well as a cellphone charger. 

3. Put the phone down 

Minnesota’s Office of Traffic Safety reports that more than 39,000 crashes in the state were distracted driving-related from 2016-2020, which contributed to one in nine crashes in Minnesota.

In 2020 alone, distracted driving in Minnesota contributed to 2,612 injuries and 29 deaths.

The Office of Traffic Safety explains, “it is illegal for drivers of all ages to compose, read or send electronic messages or access the internet on a wireless device when the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic. This includes being stopped in traffic or at a light.”

This does not apply to a GPS or navigation system that is fixed to the car. 

For those under 18 in Minnesota it is illegal to use a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free. The exception is to call 911 in an emergency. 

4. Follow everyday safe driving

Slow down, and be sure to follow all speed limits and take weather and road conditions into account. WisDOT reminds drivers they are required to drive at a “reasonable and prudent” speed based on both weather and traffic conditions. 

All passengers should wear seatbelts, as required by law. 

Vehicles are also required by law to move over for emergency vehicles on the side of the road, or slow down if moving over is not possible. Emergency vehicles include police and fire, ambulance, tow trucks and any highway maintenance vehicles. 

5. Remember never to leave people or pets inside a parked car

As the temperature rises, people and pets should not be left inside a parked car. Temperatures can rise to dangerous levels quickly, making it dangerous to be inside a parked car even for just a few minutes. 

Minnesota statutes states, “A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety.” 

The American Veterinary Medical Association states, “Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles.” The organization adds, “the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes, and almost 30º F in 20 minutes. The longer you wait, the higher it goes. At one hour, your vehicle's inside temperature can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature.”

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