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End of 2013: Fewest Number of Traffic Fatalities Since 1944

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - We often turn to history books to remind us of what happened about 70 years ago in 1944.

Well, a trend from back then is resurfacing in 2013. This year, Iowa will see the fewest number of fatalities on Iowa roads since 1944.

As of December 31, the state has recorded 317 fatalities in all of 2013. In 1944, that number was 310.

Data shows fatalities have been slowly declining over the years. It's dropped quite a ways from 1970 when 912 people died in crashes. Authorities said there are lots of reasons behind the drop. Some include simply having safer vehicles and, of course, buckling up.

"All my life, all my life," said Truck Driver Steve Fields.

Many people depend on Iowa's roads to get from point A to Point B. Those who have driven them time and time again said things have really changed.

"They have improved over 100 percent since I was driving. I mean, you've got your four lanes now and you know super highways and all that, and they keep them pretty well-maintained," Field said.

"The fatalities are down, we like to see that," said Iowa State Trooper Bob Conrad.

Trooper Conrad said troopers worked day in and day out this year to keep drivers safe.

"We've had more special projects. We've been involved with the safe commute, which has been on I-380 in the mornings and the afternoons," he said.

Department of Transportation road crews also played their role on the engineering side.

"Some of the more innovative things we've done lately are the cable median barrier rails that people are seeing say along Interstate 380 in the Cedar Rapids area. That helps catch cars when they really are going to go across and get into oncoming traffic," said

State traffic leaders said message boards are helping to create awareness by displaying traffic fatality numbers. That awareness pays off.

"It's still the driver that makes the biggest difference," Trooper Conrad said.

On this New Year's Eve traffic safety crews have a celebration of their own: The fewest traffic fatalities since 1944. It is, however, a bittersweet victory. They said 317 deaths were still too many.

"I have to go to that house and talk to a perfect stranger and tell them that their loved one is never coming home again and that's just horrible," Trooper Conrad said.

State traffic safety crews said they still have a lot to work on in 2014. One of the most significant is taking bigger steps to reduce distracted driving. State traffic officials expect part of that will include more debate on bills this upcoming legislative session.

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