COLUMBUS, Ohio -- New figures from the Ohio Department of Transportation show that the number of deaths on Ohio roadways this year are on pace to be the lowest since the department started tracking the statistic in 1936.

A still alarming 945 people have died on roads in Ohio so far this year. However, that number reflects a gradual drop since 1969 when 2,778 people were killed in traffic-related deaths.

State officials say they are cautiously optimistic that if more and more drivers continue to practice safe driving habits, that Ohio will top the previous lowest death toll of 1,016, recorded in 2011.

CHART | Roadway deaths in Ohio dating back to 1936

"Roadway engineering is getting better, vehicle engineering is getting better and law enforcement is getting better," ODOT Director Jerry Wray said in a statement. "In many cases, deadly crashes are preventable and motorists decide how safe the roads are going to be at any given time by driving sober, eliminating distractions and wearing seat belts."

ODOT has invested heavily in new safety measures on the roads, including features like cable barriers, new guardrails, rumble strips and larger, more reflective warning signs and markings.

Last year, 1,122 traffic deaths were reported. Of those, 470 were alcohol-related and 419 were drivers or passengers who were not using a seat belt. Those two factors alone are the two largest contributors to Ohio traffic deaths.

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