Safety officials say deaths of bicyclists and occupants of large trucks rose sharply last year even as total traffic fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1949.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that its analysis of traffic deaths in 2011 showed deaths of bicyclists jumped 8.7 percent and deaths of occupants of large trucks increased 20 percent.

Overall traffic fatalities dropped 1.9 percent, to 32,367. The decline came as the number of miles driven by motorists dropped by 1.2 percent.

Safety experts said they suspect the increase in bicycle deaths reflects more people riding bicycles to work and for pleasure. They said the increase in deaths of large-truck occupants may be due to more trucks returning to the road as the economy improves.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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