Traffic fatalities in Minnesota declined for the fourth straight year in 2011. Preliminary statistics from the state Department of Public Safety show traffic crashes claimed 349 lives last year. That represents an 11% drop from the 411 deaths in 2010, and the lowest total since 1944. The initial fatality count includes 276 motorists, 37 motorcyclists, 32 pedestrians and four bicyclists. State officials credit the downward trend to record-high seat belt compliance, fewer alcohol-related crashes and DWI’s, efficient emergency trauma response and engineering improvements. The final traffic death total will be released in early summer.