The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has tallied up its preliminary count of traffic deaths for 2015 and the news is pretty grim. The 396 people who died on state roads surpassed the 361 recorded last year and the most in five years.
By the time final numbers are in, the number of fatalities will likely creep past 400, the DPS said.
In 2010, there were 411 deaths. That compares with 559 a decade ago.
This year, the preliminary numbers include 61 motorcyclists, 40 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists, the agency said.
The revelation that traffic deaths were up last year comes after the Department of Natural Resources reported that boating fatalities in 2015 were the highest in a decade with 18 deaths.
Distracted driving, speeding, lack of seat belt use and drunken driving played a significant role in the uptick this year, the DPS said.
“Those who lost their lives last year on Minnesota roads were no different than you or me,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “When they got behind the wheel, they never thought they would never see their loved ones again. We can all make a difference and save lives by making driving our number one priority when we are behind the wheel.”
In 2016, the Office of Traffic Safety will continue to use federal funding to pay for overtime for law enforcement participating in crackdowns on dangerous driving behavior.
According to the DPS, speeding is responsible for one out of every five deaths. Distracted driving is also responsible for 20 percent of deaths while drunken driving is listed as a contributing factor in one in four deaths.