Missouri sees decrease in roadway fatalities for the first time since 2019

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According to preliminary data, 989 fatalities occurred on Missouri roadways in 2023, marking a 6% decrease compared to 2022, when there were 1,057 fatalities. This is the first year since 2019 that Missouri has seen a decrease in roadway fatalities. Fourteen of these fatalities occurred in the Green Hills counties last year. Daviess and Putnam counties were fatality-free in 2023. Despite this progress, the data translates to nearly three lives lost on Missouri roadways every day, indicating room for improvement in 2024. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety emphasizes that the four simple actions of buckling up, putting phones down, slowing down, and driving sober could significantly reduce the number of fatalities.

While overall roadway fatalities decreased, motorcyclist fatalities reached an all-time high. Preliminary numbers indicate that 175 motorcyclists were killed on Missouri roadways in 2023, a 14% increase from the previous year, which had 153 fatalities. This is the highest number of motorcyclist fatalities ever reported in Missouri, almost 50% higher than the average number of motorcyclist fatalities before the repeal of Missouri’s all-rider helmet law in 2020. Safety professionals highlight the lack of helmet use as a major contributing factor to this increase. Transportation Director Patrick McKenna stated the importance of wearing a helmet cannot be overstated, noting that without one, the likelihood of a crash causing a fatal injury significantly increases.

Other observed characteristics in roadway fatalities include lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speed, and impairment. Of the vehicle occupants killed in 2023, 63% were not wearing a seat belt. Distracted driving contributed to more than 100 deaths in 2023, and historically, more than half of the victims are someone other than the distracted driver. Impaired driving accounted for approximately 17% of the fatalities, while speed and other aggressive driving behaviors remained the top concerns, contributing to more than half of the total fatalities.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson and traffic safety partners are committed to reducing the number and severity of traffic crashes on Missouri roadways. “Every day, our troopers see firsthand the effects of distracted driving and excessive speed. The passage of legislation, such as the Siddens Bening Hands-Free Law, will help save lives in Missouri,” stated Colonel Olson. He emphasized the importance of motorists obeying the speed limit, wearing their seatbelt, and dedicating their full attention to driving as key factors in saving lives.

Missouri’s strategic highway safety plan, Show-Me Zero, adopts a comprehensive approach to creating a safe system aimed at reducing and eliminating traffic fatalities. Through education, public policy, infrastructure improvements, traffic enforcement, emergency services, and personal responsibility, Show-Me Zero offers opportunities for every Missourian to contribute to making the state’s roadways safer. For more information on the Show-Me Zero plan and how all Missourians can help make roadways safer, visit The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety website.  

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