JEFFERSON CITY – According to preliminary data, 989 fatalities occurred on Missouri roadways in 2023. This is a decrease of 6% when 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. Despite the progress, this still amounts to nearly three lives lost on Missouri roadways every day, leaving plenty of room for improvement in 2024. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety stresses how the four simple actions of Buckle Up, Phone Down, Slow Down and Drive Sober could put a big dent in the fatality numbers.
While overall roadway fatalities were down, motorcyclist fatalities have never been higher. Preliminary numbers indicate that 175 motorcyclists were killed on Missouri roadways in 2023, a 14% increase over the previous year (153 fatalities). This is the highest number of motorcyclist fatalities ever reported in Missouri, and almost 50% higher than the average number of motorcyclist fatalities prior to the repeal of Missouri’s all-rider helmet law in 2020. Safety professionals cite the lack of helmet use as a major contributing factor to the increase.
“To see not only an increase in motorcycle fatalities from the previous year, but to have it be the highest number ever reported proves that when it comes to motorcycle safety, public policy matters and we’ve taken a step backwards,” said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna. “The importance of choosing to wear a helmet when riding can’t be overstated. Without it, the likelihood of a crash causing a fatal injury jumps up significantly.”
Other prevalent characteristics observed in roadway fatalities include lack of seat belt use, distracted driving, speed and impairment. These behaviors continue to plague Missouri roadways. 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 in 2023 while speed and other aggressive driving behaviors remained the top concern, contributing to more than half of the total fatalities.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol and our traffic safety partners remain committed to reducing the number and severity of traffic crashes on Missouri roadways,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson. “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. To effectively reduce the number of fatalities in Missouri, we need the help of motorists. Every driver who chooses to obey the speed limit, wear their seatbelt, and pay attention to the full-time job of driving will help save lives in Missouri,” said Colonel Olson.
Missouri’s strategic highway safety plan, Show-Me Zero, takes a comprehensive approach in creating a safe system to reduce and eliminate traffic fatalities. Through a combination of education, public policy, infrastructure improvements, traffic enforcement, emergency services, and personal responsibility, Show-Me Zero provides opportunities for every Missourian to help make the state’s roadways safer. For more information on the Show-Me Zero plan and to learn how all Missourians can help make the roadways safer, visit www.savemolives.com.
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