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TRAFFIC FATALITIES DROP TO RECORD LOW IN 1998

Traffic fatalities reached a new record low in 1998 as a trend toward less-lethal roadways continued in New York, officials said.

There were 1.22 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled last year, making it the safest year since records were first kept in 1920, according to statistics complied by the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.

Vehicle occupant fatalities also decreased in 1998, down more than 10 percent from 1997. In addition, severe or potentially life-threatening injuries from crashes dropped 6 percent.

DMV spokesman Joe Picchi attributed the decline to several factors.

"State police have increased their efforts in the crackdown of seat belt laws on all levels. There's also better education on drinking and driving," Picchi said.

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