ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Traffic deaths in 2011 were the lowest they’ve been since 1944, according to a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Fatal accidents claimed the lives of 349 people in 2011. That number represents a decline in traffic deaths for the fourth straight year and a 38 percent drop in traffic deaths since 2001, according to the report.

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DPS officials said they project the final 2011 total, which will be available in the summer after additional crash reports are submitted, will be about 11 percent lower than 2010 and the lowest since 1944, when there were 356 traffic deaths.

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Officials said the reasons behind the drop in traffic deaths include motorists’ increased use of seatbelts, which is at a record-high of 93 percent, and crashes involving alcohol and arrests for DWI are both steadily dropping.

Of the 349 traffic fatalities in 2011, DPS officials said 276 were motorists, 37 were motorcyclists, 32 were pedestrians and four were bicyclists.

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Officials said there were 24,671 preliminary arrests for DWI in 2011. That number is down from 29,918 arrests in 2010.