JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri recorded a big jump in fatal traffic crashes last year, despite fewer people being on the road because of the coronavirus pandemic, state highway officials said Thursday.
Preliminary data showed 989 people died in traffic crashes, an increase of 12% from 2019, the Missouri Department of Transportation said. That included 126 fatal pedestrian deaths, the highest number in state history.
Unbuckled and speed-related traffic fatalities increased 25% over 2019, officials said.
"The pandemic reminded us even if a large portion of vehicles are removed from the roadways, poor driving behaviors still have significant and often deadly consequences," Nicole Hood, state highway safety and traffic engineer, said in a statement.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last month traffic fatalities increased 4.6% nationwide during the first nine months of 2020. The agency blamed the increase on people taking more risks on the road because there were fewer drivers,
The Missouri transportation department said it is launching a new initiative to reduce traffic deaths to zero. It will focus on four specific areas - occupant protection, distracted driving, speed and aggressive driving, and impaired driving.