It was a safe 2014 on Minnesota roads as the state was expected to record the second fewest traffic-related deaths since the World War II era.

Preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Traffic Safety indicate that 356 people died in traffic crashes last year, equal to the all-time low of 356 recorded in 1944. When final numbers for the year are in, the number of fatalities will likely be around 370, the safety department predicts.

Still, that would be the second fewest in state history. And it continues a downward trend that over the past decade has seen the annual number of traffic deaths fall from 655 in 2003 to 387 in 2013.

The number of pedestrians also fell to a 30-year low of 17. That compares with a high of 71 that were killed in 1986 and down from 35 killed in 2013.

The preliminary number show that five bicyclists (six in 2013) and 45 motorcyclists (60 in 2013) were among the fatalities last year.

Driver distraction and speeding were among the leading causes of highway crashes. Alcohol is the leading factor in fatal crashes, with one in five traffic deaths attributed to drunken driving, department officials said.

While seat belt usage is at nearly 95 percent statewide, more than half of motorists or their passengers killed last year in Minnesota were not wearing them at the time they were involved in a crash.

Authorities are pleased with the low fatality numbers, but not satisfied.

"The pain and suffering of even one family is too much," said Donna Berger, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "We all have a part in reaching a goal of zero deaths on Minnesota roads."

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