RACINE COUNTY — Although the number of deaths handled by the county medical examiner last year was largely unchanged, there were three fewer homicides and nine more traffic fatalities from 2010.

Racine County Medical Examiner Tom Terry submitted his annual report to a county committee Tuesday. In total, the county medical examiner’s department saw 1,291 deaths in 2011, compared to 1,282 in 2010.

Although homicides decreased from nine to six between 2010 and 2011, traffic incidents went up from 11 to 20.

Suicides remained the same, with 23 reported both years.

Terry said that he sees between 22 and 25 suicides in an average year, but noted that based on what he’s seen so far, there could be a “slight spike” in the number of suicides for 2012.

Total natural deaths reported for 2011 increased from 1,048 to 1,063, continuing a trend that Terry attributed to the growing use of hospice care, where people choose to die in the comfort of their own home, rather than at the hospital.

Terry reported that he took on an estimated 60 percent of the 1,000-plus cases, with additional assistance from six part-time deputies.

Terry also reported saving the county several thousand dollars last year by employing toxicology studies when circumstances indicate they may be necessary, foregoing the more costly autopsies that would otherwise be standard procedure in certain deaths.

Deaths that are addressed by the county medical examiner’s department include homicides and suicides, deaths due to poisoning, deaths with unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances, deaths from accidents, deaths that occur in the hospital less than 24 hours after admittance and more.

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