JEFFERSON CITY—Despite traffic volumes dropping dramatically in 2020 because of the impacts of COVID-19, Missouri has actually experienced a 12 percent rise in roadway fatalities over last year.
“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,” said Gov. Mike Parson. “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.”
Already, 2020 has seen 402 traffic fatalities, an increase of 43 more lives lost compared to the same time last year. And the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” are just beginning. This is the period covering the summer travel season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, one of the deadliest time periods on our nation’s roadways.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said there are actions drivers and passengers should take to reverse this disturbing 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.”
“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.”
Every driver in the state can help by committing to four simple actions:
Put the phone down.
Never drive while impaired.
Summer is also peak season for highway work zones. We are already seeing disturbing trends in our work zones this summer with rampant disregard for speed reductions and lane restrictions. It is imperative that motorists slow down and focus on the road while driving through work zones. It is for everyone’s safety.
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).