July traffic accidents in Utah claimed 45 lives, tying with July of 1981 for the notoriety of the most monthly road deaths in a decade, the Utah Department of Public Safety says.

Statistics show that last month's accident toll brings the number of fatalities for the year to 179 - the most traffic deaths for the first seven months of a year since 1981.As of July 31, 1988, was fourth in the number of deaths through July during the past 11 years. In 1978, 204 deaths were recorded through July. The 179 total in 1988 also was topped both in 1980 and 1981.

The number of deaths was 16 more than at the same time last year, when 163 deaths were recorded through July. The number of fatalities in July this year is 10 more than the number of fatalities in July of last year. It also is eight more than the average number of fatalities recorded in the month of July during the past decade, public safety officials said Friday.

The statistics show that 1978 was the worst year in the past decade for traffic fatalities, with 376. That is followed by 1982 with 364 traffic deaths, 1981 with 335, 1980 with 328, 1984 with 315, 1986 with 313, 1985 with 303, 1987 with 297, 1982 with 296 and 1983 with 283.

Drivers apparently have been more careful in recent years than they were in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cumulative number of deaths in the last five years, not including this year, totaled 1,511. The cumulative number of deaths from 1978 through 1982 totaled 1,699.

But this year marks a return to the higher fatality years of five to 10 years ago. If the fatality rate keeps up with the current pace this year, 1988 could end up as about the second or third worst year for traffic deaths in the last 11 years, state officials warned.

July and August are the worst months for traffic fatalities, averaging 37 each during the past decade. June has averaged 34 traffic deaths during the past decade, while September has averaged 32, May and October have averaged 28, April and November have averaged 26, December has averaged 23, March has averaged 22, January has averaged 17 and February has averaged 15.

The last month to surpass the 45 deaths recorded both in July 1988 and July 1981, was August 1978, when 48 deaths were recorded. That statistic was in turn topped by the 58 deaths recorded in July of 1978.

Of the 45 traffic deaths recorded last month, 26 of them were drivers, 13 were passengers, five were pedestrians and one was a bicyclist.

The worst day of the month for traffic fatalities was July 5, the day after the Independence Day celebration. Six people died in traffic accidents that day.