The number of traffic fatalities increased 12% from 2019 according to preliminary reports from the Missouri Department of Transportation. Despite a steady decline of fatalities in the past few years, 2020’s numbers marked the highest number of fatalities since 2007.
Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Assistant Division Director, Lieutenant Eric F. Brown explained that the pandemic impacted traffic fatalities.
“Especially during the height of the pandemic when schools were shut down, businesses were shut down, we had a significantly reduced amount of travel,” Brown said. “However, we did see an increase in our fatal traffic crashes because of people just making bad decisions while they were driving.”
Brown noted that unsafe driving practices, such as speeding, driving too close to other vehicles, and distracted driving contributed to the number of fatalities. He highlighted another shift in statistics.
“But one of the things that was very concerning, through the course of the last year, and something we’re still seeing right now this year, was the number of people who were killed in traffic crashes that were not wearing a seatbelt,” Brown said.
The number of unbuckled and speed-related fatalities increased by almost 25% from the previous year, according to MoDOT. Brown explains that even if you are driving safely, seatbelts are a vital way to protect yourself against distracted or reckless drivers.
MoDot’s highway safety plan includes four simple ways for drivers to keep the roads safe: “Buckle up. Put the phone down. Slow down. Drive sober.”