State roads safer in 2001

By Ashley H. Grant

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota roadways were a little safer last year, with fewer traffic deaths than the year before and the lowest number of severe injuries since the state started keeping record in 1977.

Overall, there were 57 fewer deaths on Minnesota roadways in 2001 -- a 9.1 percent decrease -- over the previous year, according to the annual report released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Safety.

The report said there were 568 fatalities last year, nearly 100,000 crashes and an estimated economic impact of more than $1.6 billion.


The 15- to 18-year-old age group had the greatest reduction in traffic deaths, a 31 percent drop from 65 in 2000 to 45 last year.

And safety belt use was at a record high of 74 percent, up from 73 percent in 2000.

"We're very pleased with the progress we've made," said Kathy Swanson, director of the Office of Traffic Safety.

Officials attribute the good news to several factors, including weather, reduced travel after Sept. 11 and safer driving habits.

It's difficult to say whether last year's improved traffic safety was an anomaly or a part of a trend.

So far this year, there have been 370 traffic deaths, compared with 323 by this time last year. But, Swanson noted, there were points earlier this year when the number was running 40 percent higher than last year.

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