ST. PAUL -- A mild winter, a slight increase in miles traveled and a spike in motorcyclist deaths in 2012 are a few of the reasons Minnesota had its first increase in traffic deaths since 2007. The 395 traffic deaths in 2012 is a 7 percent increase from 368 deaths in 2011, yet represents a 40 percent decrease in deaths from a decade ago.
The final 2012 crash data were released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety.
The statistics show that 11 people died last year on Kandiyohi County roadways, compared to six deaths in 2011. The deaths happened in eight fatal crashes. There were 193 injury crashes and 345 property damage charges in the county last year.
In 2012, four people died on Chippewa County roads, three died in Pope County, two died in Meeker County and one person died in each of Renville and Yellow Medicine counties. No traffic deaths occurred in 2012 in Lac qui Parle and Swift counties.
Statewide, the 2012 deaths include 116 unbelted motorist deaths, 104 drunken driving crash victims and 55 motorcyclist deaths. The 2012 fatality count is the second lowest annual death figure behind 2011 since 1944 when 356 were killed.
So far in 2013, there have been 134 road deaths compared to 125 deaths at this time in 2012.
"The big picture shows we've made great progress in the past decade, but the increase in deaths in 2012 is troubling, as is the climbing road death toll this year," says Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. "These recent stats demonstrate the ongoing issues we face to improving Minnesota road safety, but they are all issues that can be prevented with smart and safe driver behavior."
The state's preliminary 2012 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is less than one person: 0.69 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The U.S. fatality rate is 1.09. In 2011 -- the most recent national data available -- Minnesota was second behind Massachusetts for the lowest fatality rate in the U.S. Officials say despite the increase in deaths in 2012, the fatality rate will remain among the lowest in the nation once 2012 national data is complete.
There were 57.0 billion vehicle miles traveled in Minnesota last year, less than 1 percent higher than the 56.7 billion in 2011.
-- Gretchen Schlosser