Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Missouri outpacing 2019 traffic fatalities

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is seeing an increase in traffic fatalities so far in 2020 despite reduced traffic volume due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Missouri is reporting 402 traffic fatalities, which is 43 more fatalities compared to the same time last year. The increase comes after three straight years of decline.

Patrick McKenna, Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, says 70% of those fatalities included people who weren’t wearing seat belts.

“Just as we see people wearing masks and social distancing, not only for their own protection but the health of others, we need a similar commitment from drivers to buckle up their seat belts, put their phones down  and slow down,” said McKenna.

This warning comes during what McKenna called, “The 100 deadliest days of summer”. He explained that is the time travel season between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

It’s also the peak of highway construction in work zones. McKenna said the department has seen a disturbing trend which includes rampant disregard for speed and inattention.

He pointed to three MoDOT workers injured in work zones in the St. Louis region in one week. He said two of the three drivers took off.

MoDOT is looking at ways to see what else can be done to keep workers and travelers safe.

“One move we’ve considered is a full road closure in areas where we are experiencing high vehicle hits. We know the public doesn’t like to be inconvenienced this way, but if that’s what it takes to make sure our workers go home alive at the end of their shift, then that’s what we will do,” said McKenna.

One way MoDOT is looking to reduce crashes by taking part in a predictive analytics project along I-270. The state was awarded a $1 million federal grant to implement technology that will look at traffic volume, weather, and special events to determine the likelihood of crashes and identify response times.

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