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State's traffic fatalities down during holiday season

In a good sign for New Year's Eve this coming Friday, drivers in Washington state gave each other the best gift possible over the Christmas weekend: a significant drop in highway deaths.

The only fatality reported to date from this past weekend is a hit-and-run in Auburn. During the slightly-longer 2009 Christmas holiday weekend a year ago, four people died in collisions statewide.

"Even one death is too many," said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. "But it seems we had a much safer holiday weekend than in previous years."

State troopers also responded to fewer injury collisions during Christmas weekend this year, 54, compared to 87 during 2009's holiday.

However, troopers made more DUI arrests, 192, than in 2009, which saw 165 arrests.

Batiste thinks the additional arrests might have contributed to the drop in deaths.

"Every DUI we arrest is a potential life saved," he said. "I have no doubt that some of those we arrested would have crashed had they not been caught."

Batiste urges drivers to keep the positive momentum going for New Years.

"If we can do this for one holiday, we can do it for all of them," he said. "Collisions are not accidents. We have the power to eliminate them by simply making better choices."

He says those choices include:

• Don't drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

• Slowing down. Winter weather makes that even more important.

• Buckling up. Wearing a seat belt helps protect you from the other person's mistake.

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