Arizona highway deaths decrease in 2007 - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Arizona highway deaths decrease in 2007

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Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 12:36 am | Updated: 9:14 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The total number of crash deaths on Arizona highways hit a nine-year low in 2007, and highway officials credit the drop to increased patrols and fewer drunken drivers.

"We've been trying new things, and we knew they were having an impact," said Lt. Jeff King of the Arizona Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol Division. "But I don't think anybody expected it to be this big."

There were 302 fatal collisions last year, claiming 347 lives. That's the lowest number of crashes since 1999 and the fewest deaths since 1998.

Both were nearly 25 percent drops from 2006, the deadliest year on Arizona's highways with 480 deaths.

The decreases also come as a record number of cars and passengers hit the road, logging more miles than ever.

The Department of Public Safety cites increased patrols as one of the main factors for the drop.

During the past three years, the Arizona Legislature has increased the budget to allow more than 60 new officers to be hired by the department.

Those new patrolmen have allowed the department to focus on dangerous stretches of highways and get drunken drivers off the road, King said.

The department is expected to add several more officers this year.

Alcohol-related deaths and crashes were also at record lows in 2007.

The department said increased awareness about stiffer penalties for drunken driving helped, along with the statewide holiday DUI task force.

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