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GREAT FALLS - Montana saw a decrease in traffic fatalities in 2008, ending a three-year trend of rising traffic deaths in the state.

Col. Michael Tooley, chief of the Montana Highway Patrol, said 227 people died in Montana's roadways last year. That's down 49 deaths from 2007, when 276 people died in traffic accidents.

The 2007 death toll was the highest since 1983, when 286 people died in traffic accidents in Montana.

Tooley said last year's decline shows people are paying more attention and driving more safely. He also noted that rising gas prices kept more people off the road last year and said the state had more troopers on patrol and pushed a program to educate people on the importance of using seat belts.

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