TALLAHASSEE (CBS4)-Preliminary figures released Wednesday from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles show crash fatalities fall for the sixth year straight.

According to the department, 2,373 people died in traffic crashes on Florida’s roadways. That’s down from 2,444 traffic crash deaths reported in 2010.

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The number of crash fatalities in 2011 is the lowest the state has reported since 1978 even though the Sunshine State’s population has doubled since that time, according to the department.

“The Department’s No. 1 priority is to protect the lives and personal security of our residents and visitors through enforcement, service and education,” said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. “While the six-year downward trend is encouraging, we continue our strategic efforts to drive down the number of crashes in Florida and the number of injuries and fatalities that come as a result.”

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Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those age 5 to 34 in the U.S., according to a report online by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Understanding that the leading cause of death for so many is preventable, the Director of the Florida Highway Patrol, Col. David Brierton, echoed Jones’ commitment to saving lives.

“The men and women of FHP patrol Florida’s highways 24/7 to make them safe,” said Brierton. “Our law enforcement partners and public safety stakeholders are also important to the solution. Motorists can do their part, too, when they buckle up and drive sober.”

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The Department will publish the final count for 2011 later this year in its annual Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2011. But reports from previous years are available online at www.flhsmv.gov/html/safety.html.