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Report: With increasing road deaths, 2015 'off to a difficult start'

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Thursday's announcement that 2014 was one of the safest years on Minnesota's highways since World War II came with a somber caveat.

Barely half over, 2015 has seen an alarming number of road deaths, with 198 people having lost their lives so far, according to a news release.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) says that's a 21 percent increase over the number of deaths reported at the same time last year – 164.

Preliminary numbers show 50 of those people weren't wearing seatbelts, and 23 of the victims were under the age of 21 – nearly twice that many seniors aged 65 and older are among this year's dead.

Motorcyclists account for 37 of the 2015 fatalities – DPS describes that number as a whopping 106 percent increase over the number of deaths from last year.

In fact, earlier this year, safety officials reported that the start of the 2015 motorcycle season was the deadliest the state has on record.

“Minnesota has made great strides in the past several years improving traffic safety in Minnesota,” DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman said in the release. “While we are making progress, there is cause for concern as 2015 is off to a difficult start. We can’t get complacent when it comes to traffic safety and we must all commit to being safe drivers.”

Meanwhile, the agency says 2014 saw 361 deaths, the fewest since 1944, when 356 died on Minnesota's roads.

DPS, along with state law enforcement agencies, is in the midst of its "Toward Zero Deaths" initiative, a program that seeks to save lives by urging motorists to wear seatbelts and practice safe driving habits.

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