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2 people killed in separate crashes, as number of road fatalities rises

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Two people died in crashes on Minnesota roads Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, adding to the already-high number of road fatalities in the state this year.

At about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, a pickup with two toddlers inside went off the road while traveling on an "S" curve in Andover. It left the road and "rolled multiple times," Andover Police said in a news release.

The driver, 40-year-old Kerra Marie Cameron of Ramsey, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She died later that night.

The children in the truck, ages 1 and 3, were "properly" in child seats, and didn't appear to be injured. They are not the children of Cameron, but were in her care at the time, police said.

The accident is being investigated.

About 16 hours later, a semi tractor-trailer went off the highway on Interstate 90 in Hennepin County and started on fire, according to the State Patrol.

The driver of the vehicle died – his identity has not been released. The road was described as dry at the time. Few other details are included in the State Patrol's report as of Wednesday afternoon.

More than 30 people killed in 2016

The two deaths mean as many as 35 people have been killed on Minnesota roads in 2015 – nearly one fatality for every day of the year.

In January alone there were 25 – a figure officials called "disturbing," noting that's up from nine deaths in January of 2015.

There have been at least eight more since then. The state's Toward Zero Deaths campaign website puts the number at 33, but it wasn't clear if that included the two recent fatalities.

"We know that the last 10 years, we've had a decline in deaths, which is good. That's what we want," State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson told BringMeTheNews Wednesday. "But we do have an increase early in the year this year."

It's also possible that some people seriously injured in wrecks will end up dying, which could increase the number further.

What's caused the uptick?

Nielson, after noting the state hasn't had much bad weather in 2016, said there's "not one magic thing" causing the fatalities. There are however four frequent factors: alcohol use, speed, distracted driving, and not wearing a seat belt.

The latter is significant: Nielson said the State Patrol has 95 percent compliance of seat belt use, meaning about 5 percent of people are not wearing them. (That number was similar in a seat belt enforcement campaign last summer.)

Yet of all people killed on Minnesota roads, half of them were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

"If we could shrink that 5 percent, we'd probably see a really significant drop in deaths," Nielson said, adding enforcement is key at this point.

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