Missouri records highest-ever number of work zone deaths in 2023

Missouri Department of Transportation or MoDOT safety or work zone graphic
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In 2023, Missouri recorded its highest-ever number of work zone fatalities, with 35 incidents proving fatal. Distracted driving was a significant factor, contributing to 588 work zone crashes, including five fatalities. With April designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and National Work Zone Awareness Week slated for April 15-19, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is urging drivers to collaborate by driving responsibly and cautiously in work zones.

Missouri has implemented the Siddens Bening hands-free law, effective last August, which makes it illegal for drivers to hold or support a cell phone while driving. This includes texting, and recording or viewing videos. Violations, especially those leading to crashes with property damage, injury, or death, may result in criminal charges.

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna emphasized the critical impact of driver decisions. “Your choices can mean the difference between safety and severe consequences,” he stated. “As you approach workers on the road, remember that wearing your seat belt, keeping your phone aside, slowing down, and remaining vigilant is essential to ensure everyone’s safety every day.”

In Missouri, the law mandates drivers to slow down or change lanes when safe upon encountering MoDOT vehicles, law enforcement, or other emergency vehicles with active lights. This regulation is crucial for preventing accidents and protecting roadside workers and emergency responders.

In 2023, vehicles equipped with truck-mounted attenuators in MoDOT work zones were hit 63 times, marking an increase from the previous year. These incidents are largely attributed to distracted driving or speeding.

Nicole Hood, MoDOT Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer highlighted the importance of protective measures for road workers. “These vehicles are crucial barriers between our workers and the traveling public. Our top priority is everyone’s safety. When you see flashing lights and arrows, it’s vital to slow down and move over,” she advised.

The Buckle Up Phone Down initiative underscores the importance of personal safety measures. In the previous year, 45% of fatalities in work zone crashes involved individuals not wearing a seat belt. This year, the rate of fatalities among those unbelted has reached a peak.

For safer travel planning, MoDOT encourages motorists to check the Traveler Information Map before departing to identify any work zones along their route.

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