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Editorial: State is saving lives on roadways

Minnesota traffic deaths are headed downward, which is good, recently hitting the lowest traffic death toll in 63 years.

In 2008, Minnesota had 455 traffic deaths, which is 11 percent below the 2007 total of 510 deaths. This follows a national decline with 9.7 percent fewer traffic fatalities in 2008, compared to 2007.

It is due to a number of factors.

The primary reason is a decline in actual traffic on the road in 2008, when gasoline prices spiked during the year. The Department of Transportation reported 57.3 billion vehicle miles driven on Minnesota roads in 2008, compared to 57.4 billion in 2007.

Other factors include:

Better seat belt use

Curtailing drunken driving

Safer highways and vehicles

Overall, Minnesota's 2008 fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled totaled less than one person, which is among the five lowest in the nation.

The growing concern for Minnesota is that driver inattention is suspected in one in four car crashes. The state reported that at least 74 death and 8,999 people injuries occurred in 2008 due to driver inattention.

These cases are hard to prove, but cell phones, map reading, radio station changes and GPS viewing can all have an impact on driver attention.

Minnesotans have to continue driving safely, stay at or below the speed limit, pay attention and, most importantly, do not take chances.