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For the past six weeks, Americans have monitored with excruciating pain the casualties of the Persian Gulf War.

Faces of the our dead soldiers have appeared in the front pages of newspapers.It's disheartening that the same attention paid to casualties of war is not shared with those who lose their lives as casualties of traffic, says Gary L. Whitney, public information officer for the Utah Department of Public Safety.

During the entire Vietnam War there were nearly as many Americans killed - 58,000 - as are lost each year in traffic accidents. Today, as many as 50,000 Americans lose their lives each year on America's roads, Whitney said.

While decriminalizing traffic violations offers a speedier method to collect fines and allows heavily booked courtrooms flexibility to focus on other offenses, Whitney worries the public will not take speeding seriously.

"It would turn laws that are there to protect people into money matters. It sends a message that traffic offenses are something you pay a fine for - like a parking ticket - and forget about," said Whitney. "The poor would be more affected than the rich. There shouldn't be discrimination when it affects everyone's lives."

To change public perception about the hazards of speeding and careless driving, the Utah Highway Patrol is shifting its emphasis from enforcement to education, said Whitney. Troopers are talking to school and community groups about the importance of wearing seat belts and why driving 55 mph is smart on the freeways.

For drivers up to age 25, traffic accidents are the biggest killer. It's on the road that anyone at any age has the greatest chance of getting killed.