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Missouri Roadway Fatalities Lowest Since 1950

Over the past four years, organizations like the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Transportation have been actively working on reducing the number of fatal accidents in Missouri. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety announced Tuesday that the number of fatal accidents during the year of 2009 was the lowest since 1950. KSMU’s Adam Hammons has more.

Future drivers gathered at Hickory Hills Elementary School for a press conference, where they heard some important news about Missouri’s roadways.

In 2004 law enforcement and other state officials attempted to save lives not by roaming the streets and looking for armed criminals, but by addressing issues on our roads.

State officials say four years ago they saw a decline of 13% in fatalities on the roadways and since then it has decreased every year. This past year, the decline was just as significant, making the number of fatalities fewer than 900. This has not happened since 1950, despite the fact that there are twice as many drivers on the road. Colonel James Keathley is the superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“Every year that goes by that we continue to have these reductions like we’re seeing here, it’s tougher the next year to have a decrease. So we have to think of things we have to do that we’re not currently doing to continue to have these decreases year after year.”

Keathley went on to say that one of the main things the highway Patrol is doing is just being visible.

“There is a lot of visibility. We’ve noticed the traffic slows down, they pay attention. We’ve done that all across the state, and we’ve yet to have a fatal motor vehicle accident on any stretch of highway where we’ve had the 10 mile trooper program working.”

Another thing officers are cracking down on is seatbelts. John Miller is a safety engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“As a matter of fact when involved in a crash, you stand a 31 times greater chance of surviving a vehicle crash by simply wearing a seatbelt.”

Miller went on to say that enforcing seatbelt laws is a top priority. However the state is also making brighter and wider pavement markings and reaching out to kids so they can not only learn for themselves how to drive safely, but also remind their parents. Captain Tim Hall, the director of the patrol’s public information and education division in Jefferson City, explains.

“Parents start to pull out of a driveway and they don’t have their seatbelt on, and they’re reminded by their kids that they need to have that seatbelt on. We do see that that message is getting through and it is working. So yeah that’s one of the methods we use is through the kids to get the message across and they do a good job of it.”

There has been one fatal accident in the Ozarks in 2010. That driver was not wearing a seatbelt.

For KSMU News, I’m Adam Hammons.