MADISON, WI --- With a total of 47 fatalities in 44 traffic crashes, last month was the safest month of May in terms of traffic deaths in Wisconsin since World War II, according to preliminary statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The deadliest month of May was in 1968 with 123 fatalities. Traffic fatalities in May were 16 fewer than in May 2007 when 63 people died in 54 crashes and 18 fewer than the five-year average of 65 deaths in 60 crashes during the month of May.

Included in the May total for this year were 10 fatalities during the Memorial Day holiday period from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 23, to midnight on Monday, May 26. Last year, four people died in crashes during the Memorial Day weekend.

As of May 31, a total of 199 people have died in 186 Wisconsin traffic crashes during 2008, including 15 motorcycle drivers, 17 pedestrians and one bicyclist. Traffic deaths through May were 79 fewer than during the same period in 2007 and 82 fewer than the five-year average.

"Traffic fatalities have dropped nearly 30 percent so far this year compared to last year," said Dennis Hughes, chief of safety programs for the Wisconsin State Patrol Bureau of Transportation Safety. "Certainly, high fuel prices, which tend to decrease vehicle speeds and traffic volumes, have been factors in this reduction. However, effective law enforcement and traffic safety education efforts also are contributing significantly to this decline in deaths."