Fatal crashes in Waterloo Region reached a 12-year high in 2020.

Now, regional police say they'll deploy more officers to rural areas to help combat the problem and keep everyone safe.

Last year, 20 people died in 19 crashes in the region. Eighty-nine per cent of the crashes were attributed to distracted driving, speeding, impairment or seatbelts.

"Each one of them had some serious consequences for everybody involved," said Acting Sgt. Mark Hammer.

Police said 53 per cent of fatal crashes in 2020, and 44 per cent of major injury collisions, happening in a rural location. Police plan to ramp up enforcement by 10 per cent on both rural and urban roads.

"We want to make sure that our presence out there is known and that we're making an effect in slowing down the traffic appropriately," Hammer said.

Officials said serious collisions often happen in rural areas because vehicles are travelling at higher rates of speed. They also said driver fatigue and visibility are common factors in these crashes.

The move is welcomed by township mayors.

"We really do need people to slow down and drive responsibly in the countryside," said Woolwich Township Mayor Sandy Shantz.

"We have a speeding issue, especially when the vehicles are coming into the settlement areas, they don't slow down fast enough," said Wellesley Township Mayor Joe Now.

A crash last month at Spragues Road and Shouldice Side Road in North Dumfries claimed the lives of two young children. Five years ago, a 20-year-old man died at the same intersection.

Transport Canada said two-thirds of deadly accidents happen on rural roads in Canada.

The full report on fatal crashes in 2020 can be found here.