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Statewide, the number of roadway fatalities is on pace to surpass last year’s totals. Officials are reporting 272 deaths in 2013 so far, compared with 261 at the same time in 2012, though this is preliminary data.
Speeding, drunk or distracted driving, and a reluctance to wear seat belts are the leading factors linked to the crashes, Bowie said.
Before 2012, the state saw a steady decline in fatalities.
Traffic safety officials said the drop can be attributed to several factors: better urban planning, advances in medical care, stronger enforcement of distracted-driving laws and a tepid economy.
“This is a little bit worrisome as the economy recovers, but I think a large part of it is that the economy decreased and people were driving less,” Gustafson said.
Cars are also safer. There are more vehicles with electronic stability control systems, anti-lock brakes and air bags on the roads today, officials say, making accidents less likely and more survivable.
“I would like to believe at least a piece of this had to do with road improvement,” Gustafson said. “Unfortunately, when you improve a road, you never have any way of knowing how many injuries or fatalities you prevented.”
Libor Jany • 651-925-5033 Twitter: @StribJany