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Traffic deaths up in Minnesota for 2012

Traffic deaths are up in Minnesota for the first time in five years.

According to the Department of Public Safety, 378 people were killed on the state's roads in 2012 -- compared to 368 deaths the year before.

Officials say drunken-driving, not buckling up, speeding and distracted driving are likely responsible for the increase. Despite the higher numbers, 2012 will be the second safest year since 1944 on Minnesota roads.

Four fatal crashes in Becker, 10 in Otter Tail

In this area, Becker County had four fatalities in 2011 and four in 2012.

• Cass County had 5 fatalities in 2011 and 6 in 2012.

• Hubbard County had 4 fatalities in 2011 and 1 in 2012.

• Mahnomen County had no fatalities in 2011 and 2 in 2012.

• Otter Tail County had 11 fatalities in 2011 and 10 in 2012.

Officials expect common traffic safety issues will again be the primary contributing factors for the 2012 deaths: drunk driving, seat belt non-use, speeding and distracted driving.

In 2011, Becker County had 255 DWIs, 279 crashes, 4 deaths, 2 alcohol-related deaths, and 3 died in motor vehicle crashes -- two of those deaths were related to alcohol.

"Becker County did move to the list of one of the 13 most dangerous DWI crash counties in Minnesota," which has 87 counties, said Jesse Grabow, a trooper and public information officer with the State Patrol in Detroit Lakes.

"It shows that a significant number of people in that area do not plan ahead to have a ride, and they face some very deadly consequences," he said.

"For Becker County and all of Minnesota, those hundreds of fatalities do not have to be that annual reality," Grabow said. "That starts with each individual making the decision to do the right thing, not drink and drive and plan a sober ride."

Traffic safety officials say a warmer winter to start the year -- leading to faster, unsafe speeds -- and a spike in motorcyclist fatalities were the main factors for the increase in deaths.

One motorcycle death in Becker County

Statewide, an early spring led to a longer and deadlier riding season as 53 motorcyclists were killed, a 26 percent increase from 42 deaths in 2011.

One of those deaths was in Becker County, and there were a half-dozen injury motorcycle accidents in Becker County as well. None of them were alcohol-related.

Otter Tail County had 19 injury motorcycle accidents, three of them alcohol-related.

Hubbard County had six injury motorcycle crashes, none of them alcohol-related. Cass County had five and Mahnomen County had one motorcycle injury accident.

Walkers, bikers injured in Becker, Otter Tail

Becker County had two motor vehicle accident injuries involving pedestrians and three involving bicyclists.

Otter Tail County had three injury accidents involving pedestrians and three involving bicyclists.

Cass County had one pedestrian death.

Hubbard County had one bicyclist injury accident, as did Mahnomen County.

Local car-deer collisions

Motor vehicle-deer collisions took a toll in Becker County in 2011 -- there were 35 such crashes, resulting in one person dying and six being injured. There were 30 property damage-only crashes.

Otter Tail County had 83 vehicle-deer crashes that left 10 people injured.

In Cass County, there were 29 vehicle-deer crashes, with seven people injured.

In Hubbard County there were four vehicle-deer crashes, with four people injured.

Mahnomen County had four such crashes and no injuries.

"We can't forget the victims lost in these crashes, they are the reasons and reminders we all need to commit to safe driving behaviors in 2013," says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director.

In the last decade, the state's annual traffic deaths have trended downward: in 2002 there were 657 deaths; 2003 -- 655; 2004 -- 567; 2005 -- 559; 2006 -- 494; 2007 -- 510; 2008 -- 455; 2009 -- 421; 2010 -- 411; 2011 -- 368.

In 2011, Minnesota had among the lowest and safest death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the nation at 0.65.

2012 death results

The 378 statewide deaths include:

• 281 motorists -- down from the final 283 in 2011.

• 53 motorcyclists -- up from 42 in 2011.

• 38 pedestrians -- even with the 38 in 2011.

• Six bicyclists -- up from five in 2011.

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