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While the numbers won’t be official until May, early numbers suggest that there were 424 deaths on Minnesota roads in 2008. This is a 16% drop from the 501 deaths in 2007. This is the lowest total since 1944. The Department of Public Safety attributed the drop in deaths to several factors, including increased seat belt use, enhanced patrols to combat impaired and aggressive driving, road safety improvement and higher gas prices, which is believed to cause motorists to drive less and at safer speeds.

Locally in Stearns County, there were 12 fatalities reported in 2008 and 10 in 2007. St. Cloud police had no fatalities in 2007 and two in 2008. Sherburne had six in 2008 and 10 in 2007. Benton County had four reported in 2007 and three reported in 2008.

The decrease is a reverse of the slight increase from the 494 deaths in 2006. As the numbers are finalized, we will also be able to see if there were changes in motorcycle, pedestrian and drunk driving deaths. All of which have seen increases over the last couple of years.

With any death in a Minnesota motor vehicle collision, there are a number of issues that will need to be reviewed. My partner, Joe Crumley, addressed this topic in a recent article for the Minnesota Lawyers Trial magazine and I was interviewed last year on the same topic.

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