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DPS: January one of the safest months on Minnesota roads in decades

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January was one of the safest months on Minnesota's roads in decades, according to a new report from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). However, officials say the record-low number of fatalities last month is still too high.

In a preliminary report released today, DPS says nine people were killed in January – the fewest recorded since 1984, when the department began keeping statistics electronically.

Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the Minnesota State Patrol told the Star Tribune the drop in traffic deaths may be due to DPS's "Toward Zero Deaths" program.

The initiative, launched in 2003, is aimed at improving the safety of Minnesota's roads and encouraging drivers to wear seatbelts, the paper notes.

DPS says it has played a "significant role in saving lives and reducing serious injuries."

Despite the improvement, officials are reminding people that a great deal of work remains to be done – and that any number of people killed in auto accidents is too many.

"While it is important to highlight the decline in traffic deaths across Minnesota, we must not forget that statistics equal real people and at least nine families said good-bye to loved ones in January,” Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety Director, said in the DPS release.

To put a face on the fatalities, DPS included some information about a few of those lost last month. Among the victims were a "19-year-old son, brother and uncle," from Brookstone, an Army veteran from McGrath, and a 63-year-old man who died after a driver ran a stoplight.

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