Traffic fatalities in Wisconsin have increased about 15 percent since last year, according to a Wisconsin Department of Transportation report.

Through October, 531 fatalities occurred, which is an increase of 69 accidents compared to 2011 numbers at the same point in the year, the report said.

However, the statement also said October was the third-safest October since the end of World War II, with 51 deaths in 47 traffic accidents.

The amount is four fewer than the October 2011 amount and is an improvement from September, when 81 fatalities occurred.

Ryan Mayer, traffic and safety engineer of the southwest region of the Department of Transportation, said as of Nov. 4, there have been 538 fatalities on Wisconsin roads.

Mayer said the total number is only preliminary. The number could increase if individuals involved in traffic accidents pass away later in the hospital, or if an accident is later categorized as a suicide, Mayer said.

According to another statement from the DOT, a death is reported as a traffic fatality if the individual dies within 30 days of the accident.

Mayer said the fatality count in 2011 was 467, so the fatality count is up 71 fatalities this year with about two months remaining.

However, Mayer pointed out the count in 2007 is 649, so the number fluctuates.

Mayer said it is hard to determine the cause in the increase in traffic accidents for this year.

“A significant portion of traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving, but in many cases the cause of the accident is not included in the police write-up because officers on the scene cannot tell for instance if the individual was on their phone or not,” Mayer said.

Mayer also attributed the higher fatality rate to people’s increased speeds this year after such a mild winter last year.

“Speed is definitely another contributing factor to the increase in traffic accidents,” Mayer said.

Mayer also mentioned there were 23 more motorcycle accidents this year than last year, which he attributed to the warmer weather in late winter and early spring of this year.