COLUMBUS, Ohio - Traffic deaths in Ohio could hit a record low this year.
Ohio State Highway Patrol statistics show that the state could even dip below 1,000 traffic fatalities this year for the first time since the state began keeping records, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.
There were 823 traffic deaths in Ohio through Monday, according to the State Highway Patrol. That's the lowest number to that date since 2011, when the year-end death toll was 1,016.
Officials attribute the improving numbers to people slowing down on the roads, troopers' handling of traffic stops and collaboration between the patrol, sheriffs and police departments on joint enforcement efforts.
The Ohio Department of Transportation began keeping records in 1936, when there were 2,389 fatalities and about 1.9 million registered vehicles in the state. That works out to 12.38 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
Traffic deaths peaked in Ohio at 2,778 in 1969, but by then, more than 6.2 million vehicles were on the road. That made the fatality rate 4.46 per 10,000 vehicles.
Vehicle safety improvements, including safety belts and air bags, and better highway-construction techniques have helped drive those numbers down since then.
By last year, the number of deaths reached 1,130. With more than 11.8 million vehicles on the roads, it works out to 0.95 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
The patrol said the number of accidents of all kinds last year was 287,035 -- the lowest in Ohio since 1973.
Patrol Superintendent Paul Pride say the decrease in accidents can be attributed to motorists reducing speeds and troopers' handling of traffic stops.
"We asked our troopers to slow down, talk to people and listen to what they're saying," Pride told The Dispatch. "That has helped us to drive down the fatal numbers."
Pride said the patrol is taking a more balanced approach to enforcing traffic laws and making stops for other crimes, such as drug smuggling and human trafficking.