MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s roads are becoming safer. But in the same breath, state officials say this year traffic fatalities are up.

Authorities say 361 people died in crashes on Minnesota roads last year. That’s the lowest amount since 1944. The state credits increased enforcement and road engineering enhancements with the lower numbers. Unfortunately, the trend has not continued over the last six months.

The Minnesota Department of Public safety says 198 people have died in crashes so far this year. That’s a 21 percent increase from this time last summer.

The State Patrol says the only acceptable number of fatal crashes is zero.

“While we’re an enforcement agency tasked with a lot of enforcement efforts, our true success isn’t the number of citations we write for speeding or seat belts or number of drunk drivers we take to jail,” Col. Matt Langer with the Minnesota State Patrol said. “True success for us is to not knock on someone’s door and tell a loved one that someone isn’t coming home.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says distracted driving is the top cause of deadly crashes. Speeding and alcohol are also common contributing factors.

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