Missouri governor, state leaders alarmed amid rising traffic deaths

The Rolla Daily News

Despite traffic volumes dropping in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19, Missouri has experienced a 12 percent rise in roadway fatalities over last year, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. 

The department said there has currently been 402 traffic fatalities in 2020.

“We are alarmed by the increase in Missouri traffic fatalities, particularly since they occurred with reduced traffic due to the statewide stay at home order,”  Gov. Mike Parson said in a release today. “Despite traffic volumes in the state dropping by nearly 50 percent for much of the year, traffic fatalities in Missouri are up 12 percent compared to 2019.”

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said there are actions drivers and passengers should take to reverse the trend.

“We’re dealing with a different kind of public health crisis,” McKenna said. “During the pandemic, we see people wearing masks and social distancing, not only for their own protection, but for the health of others. We need a similar commitment from drivers to buckle their seatbelts, put their phones down and slow down.”

Of the vehicle occupants killed in Missouri traffic crashes in 2020, 70 percent were unbuckled. “Based on average survival rates, if everyone involved in these crashes had been buckled, more than 100 people who were killed would still be alive today,” McKenna said. “It’s the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to save lives on Missouri roadways.”

Drivers are urged to buckle up, put the phone down, slow down and never drive while impaired. 

“One of the toughest jobs for a Highway Patrol trooper is contacting a victim’s next of kin to tell them their son, daughter or parent has been killed in a vehicle crash,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson said. “For three straight years, troopers made fewer of those painful visits with loved ones. Drivers must observe the speed limit, move over when they see emergency responders or work crews on the shoulder and make safe decisions at all times.”

Summer is also peak season for highway work zones. MoDOT reports seeing drivers disregarding speed reductions and lane restrictions in work zones during the summer. The department said its imperative that motorists slow down and focus on the road while driving through work zones. 

Information on all MoDOT work zone activities is available on the department’s Traveler Information Map at www.modot.org. The map is available as a free app for iPhone and Android phones. Motorists can also call MoDOT’s 24/7 customer service toll free at 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (275-6636).