Traffic deaths in 2012 increased slightly — the first time in a decade — according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
There were 378 deaths last year, compared to 368 in 2011. The numbers are preliminary and Donna Berger, who directs the Office of Traffic Safety, expects the 2012 tally will be 390 traffic deaths when they are finalized this spring. That would be a 6 percent increase over 2011.
"It's unfortunate, because we have been having a downward trend in the last decade," Berger said. "When we realize that that's 378 lives lost on our roads, these victims are really the reason and reminder that we have to practice safe driving behaviors, and we're trying to encourage that for everyone."
Berger said distracted driving appears to be a growing problem, and she said drunk driving still accounts for about a third of the overall traffic deaths. The larger number of motorcycle deaths in 2012 were of particular concern. The warm spring might have contributed to the an increase, she said.
"The motorcycle riders got out early. So, the motorcycle deaths are up significantly: about 26 percent over 2011," Berger said. "We had 53 people lose their lives on motorcycles. So, we really want to encourage people to get training and to hone their riding skills."
Berger says helmets and reflective clothing also help save lives.
Even with the increase, the total is the second-lowest number of traffic fatalities for Minnesota since 1944.
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