The York County Coroner's Office saw an increase in the number of traffic deaths it investigated in 2013 compared to the previous year.

The office investigated 49 traffic-related deaths in 2013 compared to just 30 in 2012, according to records released by the office this week.

It's never easy to say why traffic deaths fluctuate from year to year, but former York County Coroner Barry Bloss said one contributing factor carries over each year.

"Of the fatal crashes, 16 of them were DUI related," he said, adding those crashes and deaths could have been prevented.

Of the 49 cases the office investigated, 47 of the deaths resulted from crashes that happened in York County. Two crashes happened outside the county, but the victims were transported to a hospital here where they died.

The coroner's office doesn't investigate cases of fatal York County crash victims pronounced dead at out-of-county hospitals.

Below average: Despite the increase, the total of 49 deaths remains below the 10-year average of 52 deaths annually.

All told, the coroner's office investigated 518 traffic deaths between 2004 and 2013, with a 10-year high of 65 happening in 2007. Since 2004, the lowest number of annual deaths was 30 in 2012.

The coroner's office conducted more death investigations for all causes in 2013 than it did the previous year. In 2013, the office investigated 471 deaths compared to 455 in 2012, according to records.

The office did, however, see decreases in some areas. There were 19 homicides in the county in 2013 compared to 20 in 2012.

The number of suicides in the county increased from 58 in 2012 to 67 in 2013, records show.

Pedestrians: Of the 49 traffic deaths, 11 were pedestrians, including one on a bicycle and one on a skateboard, Bloss said.

Additionally, one person -- Richard White III, 31, of York City -- was killed when he leapt from a moving car in West Manchester Township on June 9. The office also investigated the death of a woman who was injured in a crash in 2009 and succumbed to her injuries in December, records show.

Of those killed in crashes, 16 were not wearing seat belts.

"That definitely plays a big impact. A lot were ejected, or they were thrown around," Bloss said. "If we can get everyone to buckle up, the numbers would go down."

Education: Word of the need to buckle up is getting around through an education initiative heading into its third year.

The coroner's office, in conjunction with York Area Highway Safety Council and the Center for Traffic Safety, puts on the York/Adams High School Seat Belt Challenge, which challenges students to buckle up before hitting the road.

Last year, students at West York, South Western and Spring Grove high schools won the challenge.

That and other safe driving initiatives appear to be working. Last year, the coroner's office investigated just one vehicle crash death of a teenager -- 19-year-old Eric Shafer, who was killed in a crash in Newberry Township on Feb. 23.

Bloss said he's hoping teens continue to buckle up even after they graduate from high school.

"Hopefully they'll stick with it as they get older," he said. "If you have a seat belt on, you're going to save lives."

-- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.