Despite an increase in fatalities on state roads last year, 2012 will go down as the third-safest in nearly 70 years.
Minnesota recorded 378 deaths last year, up 10 from the previous year, according to preliminary data released on Thursday by the Department of Public Safety.
Officials said the count could rise to about 390 by the time additional crash reports are submitted and analyzed.
That still would make 2012 the third-lowest since 1944, but it ends a five-year streak that had seen year-to-year declines.
Deaths fell from 510 in 2007 to 455 in 2008. In 2009, there were 421, and in 2010, there were 411. The 368 reported last year was the first time since 1944 that fewer than 400 deaths occurred on state roads. There were 356 that year.
"We can't forget the victims lost in these crashes," said Donna Berger, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "They are the reasons and reminders we all need to commit to safe driving behaviors in 2013."
More motorcycle deaths
The preliminary data show a 26 percent jump in the number of motorcyclists killed last year compared with 2011. Warm weather led to a longer riding season, one factor officials attribute for the 53 deaths last year compared with 42 the year before. The number of bicyclists -- six -- also was up one from 2011. Pedestrian deaths -- 38 -- equaled the 2011 total. The number of people in motor vehicles who were killed dropped by two, from 283 in 2011 to 281 in 2012.
Minnesota follows a national trend in which fatal crashes rose last year after six years of declines.
An estimated 25,580 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States during the first nine months of 2012, up from 23,884 in the same time period the year before, according to a report put out in December by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
More miles traveled in 2012
One reason for the increase might be that Americans drove more in the first nine months of 2012 than they did the previous year. The number of vehicle miles traveled between January and September increased by 14.2 billion miles, or 0.6 percent, according to the report.
September was the deadliest month in Minnesota, with 48 fatalities, followed by August with 42 and October with 38. April, with 19 deaths, had the fewest.
Hennepin, the state's most-populous county, recorded the most fatalities with 32, but that was down from 45 in 2011. Anoka County had the second-most with 25, up from 11 the previous year and the largest increase of any of the state's 87 counties. Ramsey County recorded 20 (up from 14), Dakota had 17 (up from 16), Washington had 8 (up from 6) and Scott had 4 (down from 9).
Ten counties -- Clearwater, Cook, Kanabec, Lac qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Norman, Swift, Traverse, Watonwan and Wilkin -- reported no fatal crashes.
Drunken driving accounts for about one-third of fatalities on state roads, officials said. In 2011, there were 111 drunken-driving-related deaths.
Preliminary data for 2012 show that 26,628 motorists were arrested for drunken driving, a drop from 29,918 in 2011. But final numbers won't be available until midyear when crash data analysis is complete, officials said.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 • Twitter: @timstrib