Traffic accidents in Japan claimed 5,155 lives in 2008, down 589 from the previous year and marking the eighth straight year of decline. The number of annual traffic deaths is now about 30 percent of the record set in 1970 when 16,765 people died. This news is most welcome, but police, drivers and pedestrians must not let down their guard.

The period from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3 saw 89 traffic deaths, 10 more than the year before. It is still somewhat heartening that this figure was the second-lowest since fiscal 1970, when the first statistics for this period were taken. Traffic accidents caused by drunken driving numbered 72 in the latest Dec. 29-Jan. 3 period, less than half the 148 accidents in the same period the year before.

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