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Fatal road accidents in the county dropped during the last year, giving Anne Arundel the fifth-highest rank in the state, as compared with its rank of third in 1990.

Fifty-eight people died in 53 accidents in the county last year, as compared with 70 fatalities in 65 accidents in 1990, county police figures show.

"Enforcement has a lot to do with it," said Officer Charles Brown, who compiles statistics for the county police Traffic Safety Unit. "But to be honest, I was working radar one day and stopped a teen-ager for speeding at about 5 p.m. Later that evening, he was in a drunken-driving accident. He still had the ticket in the car that I had given him earlier in the day. For some people, enforcement is not going to help."

Alcohol contributed to 22 of the 53 fatal accidents lastyear, county police figures show, as compared with 29 in 1990. But drunken-driving arrests dropped slightly last year to 2,016 from 2,021in 1990.

County police received three federal grants totaling about $82,000 for the enforcement of drunken driving and speeding laws, said Sgt. Paul Whittenberger, head of the Traffic Safety Unit.

Thebulk of that money -- $60,000 -- was used to pay for a drunken-driving campaign that focused on education in the community and schools.

Whittenberger said he believes continuing education about alcohol abuse and aggressive enforcement in the county contributed to the dropin alcohol-related fatalities.

"We had almost a 10 percent reduction in all alcohol-related accidents," he said. "We are getting them before they smash up."

More male drivers than women were responsible for fatal accidents. Last year, 41 men were responsible for fatalities, of which 20 involved alcohol.

Eleven female drivers were responsible for fatal accidents in 1991, of which two involved alcohol. The results of one accident is pending.

The same pattern held the year before. Twenty-seven of the male drivers in fatal accidents had been drinking, and only two of the females had been drinking.

Brown said that while the figures are down for last year, there is a certain percentage of fatalities that can't be prevented.

"In a T intersection, if the driver is hit on the driver's side door, there will still be a fatal," Brown said. "It doesn't have to be a high-speed accident in that type of situation. There was a woman pulling out of a shopping center in Pasadena, and she was hit in the driver's side door. One of her ribs pierced her heart and she died."

Prince George's County ranked highest in the state, with 97 people dying in accidents last year. Baltimore County followed with 88 deaths, Montgomery County was third with 69 and Baltimore City ranked fourth with 68 fatalities, state police figures show.

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