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Early estimates show 2021 U.S. traffic fatalities highest since 2005

Roadways have been deadlier since the pandemic started in 2020, with pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increasing in recent years, as well as hit-and-run fatalities.

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — The Department of Transportation recently announced several initiatives to combat rising road deaths, as traffic fatalities reached historic levels during the pandemic.

"He was a positive, energetic person," said Gaocher Yang.

Yang still remembers the moment she found out her brother Choulykor Vue was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Maplewood.

"He was walking with his girlfriend, when he was struck by a vehicle," she said.

The incident occurred in September 2020 at the intersection of Lakewood Drive and Beaver Creek Parkway in Maplewood.

But there are still no answers, no arrests.

"It's been horrible since, just the fact of not knowing," she said.

Roadways have been deadlier since the pandemic started in 2020 with pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increasing in recent years, as well as hit-and-run fatalities.

And these numbers continue to spike, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated  42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.

Behind each of these numbers is a life tragically lost, and a family left behind.

RELATED: Fatal traffic accidents up nearly 27% in Minnesota from 2020-21

"When we look at the past two years, what we see is unprecedented in many ways," said Mike Hanson, with the Office of Traffic Safety.

Hanson says a number of factors weigh in to fatal crashes like speeding, distracted driving, driving while impaired and not wearing a seatbelt, as the number of unbelted drivers in crashes in Minnesota has also gone up for the second year in a row.

"92.4 % of Minnesotans use that seatbelt every time, so the 7%, they account for almost a third of our fatalities," Hanson said.

While Yang says her family is still waiting for closure and for the person responsible for hitting and killing her brother, to come forward. She's sending out a plea for drivers.

"And if you do hit someone, just stop. even if it's an accident please stop, you can save someone's life," she said.

Investigators are asking anyone with any information on Vue's case to call Sgt. Joe Steiner at 651-249-2608 or email him at Joe.Steiner@maplewoodmn.gov.

The 'Click It or Ticket' seat belt campaign begins May 23 and goes on through June 5th in Minnesota. There will be extra enforcement to check for seatbelt violations in an effort to save lives.

RELATED: From work zone pace cars to adjustable speed limits, MnDOT exploring options this year

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