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Highway deaths fell across most of the nation in 2010

The news about highway safety is good for much of the nation, according to WKBT-TV of La Crosse.

The Transportation Department released a report late last week showing that highway deaths continue to drop; now at their lowest level since Harry Truman was president. Official said the ongoing decline in fatalities is due to a combination of factors, including more drivers and passengers using seat belts, improved motor vehicle safety equipment and nationwide efforts to stop drunken driving.

Last year, 32,788 people died in car accidents on U.S. roads, a decrease of approximately three percent over the year before.

That number is the lowest total since 1949 when Truman was president, "All the King's Men" won the Best Picture Oscar, the People's Republic of China was founded and the top song of the year was Vaughn Monroe's "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

The Transportation Department said that highway fatalities have dropped by one-quarter since 2005.

The nation was led by the Pacific Northwest region (Oregon, Washington state, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) with a drop of 12 percent.

However, the Midwest region including Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio saw an overall increase of 3.9 percent in fatalities.

Though the U.S. experienced a drop, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, he acknowledged that "too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day."

The department will release state-by-state figures for fatalities and injuries later this year.

Analysts said that in addition to better safety features on vehicles, another reason for the drop in deaths is likely the economic downturn. People cut back on their driving when the economy suffers.

Fatalities and injuries likewise fell in the early 1980s and early 1990s when the economy sputtered.

Resource: WKBT: "Highway deaths fall to lowest level since 1949": March 31, 2011

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