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Data indicate deaths on Minnesota roads rose in 2018

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Downtown St. Paul
Traffic moves along Interstate 94 near downtown St. Paul in 2014.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News

More people lost their lives on Minnesota's roads last year.  Initial reports indicate that 380 people died in 2018. That's up from 358 in 2017.

Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety, said those numbers are unacceptable. He said most fatal accidents could be prevented if drivers just acted responsibly.

"It's going to take everybody paying attention, not getting behind the wheel when they're impaired, by watching their speed and obeying the speed limit and by making sure everybody puts seatbelts on every trip, every time, every seat. Those four things alone would solve 80 percent of our fatality problems," Hanson said.

Most driving deaths in 2018 involved speeding, drinking, inattention or failing to wear seat belts. Of the 58 motorcyclists killed, 42 were not wearing helmets.

"They're making bad decisions," Hanson said of drivers. "We shouldn't need laws to legislate common sense. But that is where we're at."

Forty-two pedestrians died last year, as did seven bicyclists. Men accounted for 70 percent of traffic deaths.

Long-term, highway deaths have dropped steadily. The fatality rate in terms of miles driven is about an eighth of what it was 50 years ago. Hanson attributes the reduced deaths to several factors, including more safety-conscious drivers, roadways that reduce the potential for head-on crashes, safer vehicles and better emergency medical care.

A lot of drivers got off to a bad start for the new year, however.

Police made 111 DWI arrests state-wide from New Year's eve through 6 a.m. New Year's Day.