HARRISBURG - State highway crashes declined last year to the lowest level in more than 50 years, and the number of deaths also decreased, state officials said.

According to statistics released yesterday by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 1,525 people died in 128,203 traffic crashes in 2006. The number of crashes was the lowest since 1952, when 126,820 were recorded. In 2005, there were 133,346 crashes resulting in 1,616 deaths, the department said.

Deaths related to aggressive driving - the leading cause of highway fatalities in the state - declined from 1,109 in 2005 to 909 last year.

"Obviously, we're seeing fewer aggressive driving fatalities, which is a step in the right direction," said Steve Chizmar, a PennDot spokesman. "We're also seeing more people wearing seat belts." - AP