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Roads Safer For Kids

The number of children who died in highway accidents last year was the lowest since the government started keeping records in 1975.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported Wednesday that 2,588 children under 16 died in highway accidents in 2001, fewer than original estimates released in April. Last year's figures represent an 8.6 percent decline from the previous record low of 2,831 children killed in 2000.

Many states now require children to be belted or ride in safety seats. Several automakers have developed programs to educate parents about proper use of restraints.

"Clearly, parents and caregivers are getting the message about the importance of proper restraints for children of all ages," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said.

NHTSA said the overall number of traffic fatalities rose slightly, from 41,945 in 2000 to 42,116 in 2001.

The rate of alcohol-related deaths remained unchanged at 41 percent of all fatalities, or 17,448 deaths.

Motorcycle fatalities rose for the fourth straight year, to 3,181, the highest number in 11 years.

Motorcycle deaths reached their low point in 1997 with 2,116, or 21 deaths for every million miles driven. That was less than a third of the rate 20 years earlier.

The NHTSA figures are based on data collected by police at accident scenes nationwide. A preliminary tally was released in April.

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