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Traffic deaths up slightly in 2012

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For the first time in five years, the number of traffic fatalities in Minnesota increased from the previous year – 378 people were killed in 2012, up 10 from the 2011 total, according to preliminary reports from the Department of Public Safety.

Department officials in a press release said that they were forecasting that the official final total – available this summer after additional crash reports are submitted – will be about 390. That would be a 6 percent jump above the 2011 figure.

But there's good news in the broader picture: Fatalities have dropped dramatically from a decade ago. In fact, 2012 would be the second safest year – after 2011 – since 1944 (356 deaths). Since 2002 (657 deaths), the total traffic fatalities number has decreased nearly every year in Minnesota (except when the number increased in 2007).

The state has one of the lowest rates of death per miles traveled in the nation, state safety officials say.

Officials say these common traffic safety issues likely again will be the top contributing factors to the 2012 fatalities: drunk driving, drivers not using seat belts, speeding and distracted driving. Officials say that traditionally, drunk driving-related crashes account for more than one-third of the state’s total traffic fatalities.

The deadliest months on Minnesota roads in 2012 were September (48), August (42) and October (38), the department says. The safest were April (19), January (20) and March (23).

Click here for county-by-county traffic death totals for 2012 and 2011.

Traffic deaths in Anoka County more than doubled from 11 to 25 in 2012, state officials say. In Ramsey County, the number increased from 14 to 20; the number dropped in Hennepin County from 45 to 32. Hennepin still had the highest total of any county.

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