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Missouri traffic fatalities increased by 12% during pandemic despite decrease in traffic

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 989 lives were lost in Missouri traffic crashes in 2020, up from 881 in 2019
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A new Missouri preliminary report revealed a 12% increase in traffic fatalities in 2020 compared to the previous year.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 989 lives were lost in Missouri traffic crashes in 2020, up from 881 in 2019.

“Nearly every fatal crash that occurs is preventable,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Public Information and Education Director, Cpt. John Hotz. “Over 90% of these crashes were the result of someone simply making a poor decision, primarily: driving too fast, driving distracted or driving impaired. Many of those killed were not wearing a seat belt."

Despite traffic volumes in the state being significantly down due to the pandemic, Missouri experienced its largest number of traffic fatalities since 2007.  Last year was also a record for the largest number of pedestrians killed. A total of 126 pedestrians died. There were also notable increases in unbuckled and speed-related fatalities, with both experiencing approximately a 25% increase from the previous year. In 2020, 67% of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes were unbuckled and preliminary numbers indicate 389 people were killed in crashes involving excessive speed or driving too fast for conditions.

“The pandemic reminded us even if a large portion of vehicles are removed from the roadways, poor driving behaviors still have significant and often deadly consequences.” said MoDOT State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood. “We continue to work diligently in achieving the ultimate goal – zero traffic fatalities in Missouri. This year, we’re excited to introduce Missouri’s new strategic plan, a tool we hope will help us eventually reach that goal.”

To reduce the number of fatalities in the future, a new strategic highway safety plan has been developed.

It’s called Show-Me Zero, Driving Missouri Toward Safer Roads. The plan identifies four key focus areas: occupant protection (seat belts, car seats and helmets), distracted driving, speed and aggressive driving, and impaired driving. Show-Me Zero includes strategies for families and individuals as well as groups such as schools, businesses, local public agencies, law enforcement, health organizations, and statewide officials.

To see the entire Show-Me Zero plan, click here.