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Published: Wednesday, 3/17/2010

Driving safely helps

GOVERNMENT data that show U.S. driving deaths have dropped significantly offer great news. The 9 percent decline in traffic fatalities in 2009, to the lowest number since 1954, is a testament to public service campaigns, such as encouraging more seat-belt use and discouraging drunk and distracted driving.

Safety experts also attribute the low fatality rate to safer roads, more enforcement of traffic laws, and safety features on vehicles. Others link the declining death count to the sluggish economy, in which fewer people drive.

Traffic fatalities, which peaked in 2005 at 43,510, have decreased about 22 percent since then. That is a progressive sign that roads are less deadly. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offers an appropriate caution.

"Drivers need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their focus on the road in order to stay safe," he said.

Clearly, better driving habits help to reduce traffic deaths.

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