State officials dispute claim of deadliest roads

By The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi safety officials dispute a claim that the state has the nation’s deadliest roads, saying deaths have fallen since the data was compiled.

PropertyCasualty360.com, a website published by insurance magazine National Underwriter, listed Mississippi as having the most traffic deaths per capita nationwide, citing 2009 numbers.

The list also includes Montana, Alabama, Wyoming, Arkansas, South Carolina, Louisiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

But Highway Patrol officials tell The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/PqLH3E) that traffic deaths have fallen from 700 in 2009 to 630 last year.

Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz also says the list doesn’t capture Mississippi’s focus on reducing traffic deaths.

After recording 931 fatalities in 2005, a group of agencies set a goal to cut the total by a quarter by 2011. That 25 percent reduction was achieved by 2009, and the group renewed the 25 percent goal, aiming to cut deaths to 525.

“While we have not reached the goal we set for ourselves, this proves we are making strides in the right direction,” Santa Cruz said. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we will continue working to reduce deaths until there are none.”

The state has won a series of award for improving highway safety in recent years.

The Highway Patrol’s Master Sgt. Johnny Poulos said some of the improvement comes from better decisions by drivers and passengers.

“This is a combined effort. When you look at it, as a whole, we’ve come a long way,” said Poulos, who will speak in August to a national safety convention about what Mississippi is doing to help curb traffic fatalities.

For example, the Mississippi Department of Transportation has installed up to 300 miles of cable barrier in the medians of Mississippi highways to help stop vehicles from crossing over and crashing into oncoming traffic.