The Missouri DOT and Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety find themselves in deep dismay over the current number of statewide traffic fatalities in 2020. Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic in conjunction with the state’s stay-at-home orders have resulted in less traffic in recent months, there have been 403 more traffic fatalities statewide than there were at this same point in 2019.
Gov. Mike Parson said he and his administration are deeply concerned about this massive uptick in the loss of lives, and is working with MoDOT to reverse the trend and boost roadway safety.
Traffic volumes have decreased by approximately 50% across the state during the stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses, yet MoDOT reported a 12% statewide increase in traffic fatalities before the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so was named due of the level of traffic fatalities across the U.S. during that stretch of days.
MoDOT Area Engineer Brian Untiedt told the Courier Post that the region's trend of reduced traffic mirrored the statewide situation. He also said 70% of fatalities involved unbelted motorists and passengers. “We have seen a slight decrease, but we're still hovering around that same rate that we were going for fatalities, despite the decrease in traffic,” Untiedt said.
During the pandemic, speeding has increased on Missouri roadways amid the lower traffic levels, and Untiedt said that now traffic levels are gradually rising as more people venture out for vacation and other summer activities. “Especially for those pedestrians, the motorcyclists, the bicyclists, our workers and the construction workers who are out on the road — we really need the drivers to focus on the task at hand, which is driving safely,” Untiedt said.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna has characterized this as “a different kind of public health crisis,” saying, “We need a similar commitment from drivers to buckle their seatbelts, put their phones down and slow down.”
Photo: Missouri DOT Flickr page; STL Riverfront Night