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WASHINGTON — The Army saw its accident fatalities worldwide drop by 21 percent last fiscal year to the lowest rates since military operations escalated following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But the service still has work to do before it can meet accident-reduction goals set by the Defense Department.

Officials set a target for fiscal 2008 of no more than 516 preventable accidents, a 75 percent reduction of the fiscal 2002 worldwide accident rate. Last fiscal year, the Army listed 2,371 ground and air accidents.

Still, fiscal 2006 was the first time since 2002 that the Army has seen both an overall reduction in fatalities and an overall reduction in preventable accidents, something Col. Scott Ciluffo, director of future operations at the center, attributed to new safety programs and better overall awareness of prevention efforts by commanders.

Deaths from fatal accidents dropped to 223 in fiscal 2006 from 282 the year before. Officials at the Army Combat Readiness Center called the news a dramatic success.

“Every echelon of command has made a great effort in this, and that’s why we saw great strides last year,” Ciluffo said. “Everyone is taking this seriously.”

For example, the Army expanded use of its Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer units, which helps train soldiers in escaping from an overturned vehicle. Command-mandated driving courses for younger soldiers and troops with motorcycles helped curb the private vehicle fatality rates, Ciluffo said.

“We’re not trying to regulate soldiers’ personal lives,” he said. “We’re trying to help them make good decisions.

“We don’t want them after a long week of work to get in a car and try to drive all the way from Fort Hood (in Texas) to Fort Belvoir (in Virginia). But we see people doing that sort of thing.”

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