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2014 was one of the least deadly years for Minnesota's motorists

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Last year was one of the safest for Minnesota motorists since the World War II era – and that's encouraging for state officials.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety data indicates 356 people died in traffic crashes last year, which is equal to the all-time low dating back to 1944. DPS projects final numbers for 2014 traffic deaths to be around 370, which is the second fewest number of deaths in state history.

Preliminary data show the number of pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcycle fatalities were also all down compared to last year.

Traffic-related fatalities have fallen in the last decade, from 655 in 2003 to 387 in 2013, DPS says, which is encouraging, but the department isn't satisfied.

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

Driver distraction and speeding were the leading contributors to traffic crashes in Minnesota last year, and although the number of drunk driving-related crashes is on the decline, alcohol was still the top factor in traffic fatalities, DPS says.

Not wearing a seatbelt is also a major contributor to fatal crashes – about half the motorists killed in 2014 weren't buckled up.

The deadliest months on the roads last year were August (43), July (40) and September (37), while March (19), February (20) and January (28) saw the fewest fatalities.

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