"It wasn't the worst year, but it was a bad one," Bane said Tuesday afternoon.

The sheriff also said that a highway safety task force made up of representatives from the Sheriff's Office, State Police and local municipal police departments plans to present a report to the Harford County Council during its Jan. 15 legislative session in Bel Air.

The task force was formed in 2011 to target specific areas in the county where traffic problems were concentrated and, though police agencies stepped up enforcement efforts last year after there were so many deaths, the carnage on the roads continued.

One fatal accident last year in particular hit close to home for Bane and the rest of the Sheriff's Office.

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Early in the morning of Sept. 6, one of Bane's own deputies, headed home to Rising Sun at the end of his shift, was killed when his unmarked cruiser went out of control and hit a tree on Route 1 in Darlington.

A few hours later on the other side of the county, a Pennsylvania man driving to work at Aberdeen Proving Ground died after he lost control of his car on Route 22 and hit a guardrail, about two miles from the APG gate.

What the numbers say

The 31 Harford highway deaths last year were eight more than in 2011, seven more than in 2010. They also exceeded the 26 deaths in 2009, 21 in 2008 and 29 in 2007.

There are a few caveats about 2012's number:

One of the six pedestrian deaths last involved a woman who ran into traffic on I-95 and was killed, and police have ruled her death a suicide.

Conversely, the 31 total does not include a motorcyclist killed in a crash in Havre de Grace in May who didn't die until two months later; State Police say a highway fatality is not recorded statistically if the death occurred more than 30 days following the accident.

In addition, the death of a driver last March following what police said was a minor crash at the end of the Bel Air Bypass at Harford Road in Benson has been attributed to a "medical emergency" by State Police, who say the accident itself was incidental to the fatality. As a result, that death is not counted for statistical purposes.

In addition to the aforementioned I-95 suicide, the five other pedestrian deaths in 2012 included two other people who were killed in Aberdeen, one on Route 22 and the other on Route 40; one person killed on Route 24 south of Bel Air; one person killed walking along Route 755 in Edgewood; and one person killed as he helped a disabled motorist on Route 152 in Joppa and was struck by a vehicle exiting nearby I-95.

Not surprisingly, speed, driving too fast for conditions and failure to give full time and attention show up most often in the contributing circumstances block on police accident reports for last year's fatal accidents.

More surprisingly, perhaps, drug or alcohol impairment was not cited as a contributing factor in any of the 2012 fatal accidents involving vehicle collisions.

Multiple highways, multiple deaths

In addition to the motorcyclist who died two months after the accident in Havre de Grace in May, four other motorcyclists were killed last year, one on Route 440 near Dublin, one on Route 147 near Reckord Road in Fallston and one on Route 22 in Fountain Green.

The highways with the most deaths last year were Route 543 and 152. Less than two weeks after the triple-fatal on Route 543 in February, a man was killed in a three-car accident on Route 543 about two miles south of the earlier accident.

In addition to the double-fatal on Route 152 in May, a young woman was killed in August in a three-car accident less than a mile south from the first. Police said her vehicle crossed the center line and caused the crash. A fourth death occurred Dec. 17, when an Abingdon man was struck and killed as he and a Maryland Transportation employee aided another motorist who had a flat tire near one of the I-95 ramps. State Police say a vehicle exiting southbound I-95 onto northbound Route 152 struck one of the stopped vehicles and the two people on the shoulder. The accident report lists contributing factors as driving too fast for conditions, failure to drive in a single lane and wet roadway.

The section of I-95 in Harford was the site of the two fatalities from the accident on Nov. 24 and a third on Dec. 8, when an Aberdeen woman drove onto the Route 22 exit ramp and ran under a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the ramp.

Other highways in the county with multiple fatal accidents last year (not involving pedestrians) included Route 22 — three (two in Aberdeen, one in Fountain Green); Route 40 between Robin Hood Road and Lewis Lane in Havre de Grace — two; and Route 23 in Forest Hill between Route 24 and Route 165 — two.

The greater Aberdeen and Havre de Grace area had the greatest concentration of deaths, nine, with eight of those in Aberdeen. There were two other deaths south of I-95 in the Joppa-Edgewood area; five deaths in the area between Route 147 in Fallston and I-95 in Joppa; and seven in northern Harford County.

Ages of drivers killed last year range from 17 to 83. A 17-year-old man from Belcamp was the year's last fatality, dying in a head-on collision in Aberdeen on New Year's Eve in which excessive speed was a contributing factor, according to the Sheriff's Office. An 18-year-old Forest Hill woman was killed in a June 26 head-on collision on Route 152 in Joppa in which State Police say her vehicle crossed the center line.

Four of the drivers killed last year were between the ages of 20 and 29, five between 30 and 39, three between 50 and 59 and two between 30 and 39. One driver killed was 69, another was 79.

Two passengers died in accidents where the driver of their vehicle did not, one of whom was killed by a deer carcass that went through the windshield of a dump truck in which he was riding, after the animal had been hit by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

The month with the most fatalities last year was February with seven. November ranked second with six. There were three in deaths in March, May (not counting the motorcyclist who died two months after his accident), September and December. There were two deaths in August and one each in January, April, June and July.