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Traffic deaths in Minnesota are at lowest level since 1944

ST. PAUL -- The state Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety has announced that at least 410 people were killed in crashes last year on the state's highways.

The preliminary numbers were released Monday and the department projects that the final 2010 count will be close to 420 people, very close to the 2009 total fatalities of 421, which was the lowest number of annual traffic deaths since 1944. The final statistics will be released this summer.

In west central Minnesota, seven people lost their lives in traffic crashes in Meeker County and four were killed in crashes in Swift County. Other Meeker County stats include eight people suffering serious injuries and 86 arrests for impaired driving. In Swift County, five people were seriously hurt and 33 people arrested for driving while impaired.

Chippewa, Kandiyohi and Lac qui Parle counties each had two fatalities, Renville County had three fatalities, and one person was killed on the highways of Redwood County. Pope and Yellow Medicine counties recorded no fatal crashes.

In Chippewa County, six people were seriously hurt and there were 71 DWI arrests; Kandiyohi had 14 serious injuries and 194 DWI arrests; Lac qui Parle had six serious injuries and 28 DWI arrests; Pope had two serious injuries and 49 DWI arrests; Redwood had eight serious injuries and 87 arrests; Renville had eight serious injuries and 112 arrests; and Yellow Medicine had six serious injuries and 112 DWI arrests.

State officials point to a significant downward trend in highway fatalities.

"We've seen a positive trend-line of fewer road deaths in recent years that points to the success of legislation and proactive traffic safety campaigns," says Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion. "While it appears 2010 won't show a big reduction in deaths, we are maintaining a low death count and have cut down our annual road deaths by more than 200 since just eight years ago -- that is very significant."

Campion cites traffic safety legislation, such as the new primary seat belt law; enhanced enforcement coupled with education efforts; effective Minnesota Department of Transportation, county and local engineering improvements; efficient emergency trauma response; and safer vehicles.

"These are all critical elements to the progress, but none are as important as safe driver behavior. The key to reducing deaths is for motorists to take the task of driving seriously," says Campion.

The preliminary 410 fatality count includes 313 motorists, 41 motorcyclists; 39 pedestrians, nine bicyclists, four ATV riders; two farm equipment operators, one snowmobiler, and one battery powered conveyance vehicle operator.