A trend since 2005 has continued, as fewer people died on Missouri’s highways last year than in 2010.

The Highway Patrol reports 773 traffic fatalities in 2011. That is 5 percent down from 2010, when 821 people died. It is also the first year since 1949 that fewer than 800 people deaths occurred from auto accidents.

Captain Tim Hull says the patrol would prefer that number be zero, but it did have a goal in mind for reduction. “We were working for less than 800 by the end of 2012…we’re well ahead of where we’re trying to be at, and that’s always a good sign.”

Hull credits four factors with the continuing decline, that he calls the “Four ‘E’s:” education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical services.

“Stepped up enforcement programs and education programs are working in conjunction with each others. The engineering of the highways, the engineering of vehicles…there are much safer cars now than we used to have…and then of course emergency medical services have come a long way with being able to transport people involved in traffic crashes much more quickly, and then we’ve got more trauma centers than we used to have so they’ll be able to get them to a trauma center much more quickly.”

Of the accidents that are still happening, Hull says the number one cause remains the same. “Driver inattention still continues to be the number one contributing circumstance to all traffic crashes.”

In the first three days of the new year, seven people have died on Missouri highways.