KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of people who died in car crashes in the state of Missouri decreased for the fourth straight year in 2019, according to statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The 866 fatalities in 2019 marks the lowest number since 2014. Here’s how the past five years have ended:
- 2019: 866
- 2018: 914
- 2017: 926
- 2016: 943
- 2015: 869
- 2014: 761
Sgt. Bill Lowe with MSHP said it’s great to see the number of fatalities decrease, but 866 lives lost is still too many.
“Those numbers would be drastically lower if people would take that responsibility and pay attention to the job of driving,” he pointed out.
Lowe and the highway patrol think the number of deaths has gone down because of four main reasons, each of which begins with the letter "E": education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medicine.
From high school classrooms to message boards along the highways, law enforcement agencies have focused on educating and reminding drivers to be safe.
In Missouri, the Buckle Up, Phone Down campaign is the most obvious education tactic to get drivers to wear a seatbelt and not look at their cellphone while driving.
“I think when you're driving and you see that, it brings more awareness to yourself and your surroundings. So I think that is helpful, that imagery, to see that on the road; especially the highways. I think it does help,” driver Mac Levens pointed out.
Lowe said troopers wrote fewer citations for speeding and seatbelt violations in 2018 compared to 2019. There were also fewer drunk driving arrests in 2019 than 2018. Lowe says enforcing traffic laws keeps drivers alert.
“Our families are out there just like everybody else's and we want everyone to be cognizant of their driving and realize driving is not a selfish act, it is selfless. You're out there for everybody else and not just yourself,” Lowe said.
Engineering improvements fall on the hands of the Missouri Department of Transportation. It redesigns roads to improve safety.
Lowe pointed to the addition of a “J-turn” on 50 Highway and Buckner Tarsney Road in Lone Jack, Missouri, as an example of how a new design has improved safety. No one died at the intersection in 2019, according to MSHP.
Emergency medicine also continues to improve. From the training troopers receive to the equipment paramedics carry in ambulances, crash victims get more advanced care today than in the past.
Lowe said there is one preventive action drivers can do to give themselves a better chance at surviving a crash: wear a seatbelt.
He said about half of the people who died in crashes in 2019 were not wearing a seatbelt.
“That's over 300 lives that could've been saved had they just had their seatbelt on,” Lowe highlighted. “I’m not saying it's foolproof, but it gives yourself a chance and you want to make sure you're giving yourself a chance to survive that crash.”
Already there have been 14 traffic fatalities in Missouri in 2020. But state leaders hope the "four E's" can keep the downward trend going throughout the year.
Here’s the latest data from the Kansas Department of Transportation on the number of traffic fatalities per year:
- 2019: 410 (a preliminary count)
- 2018: 405
- 2017: 461
- 2016: 429
- 2015: 355
- 2014: 385
- 2013: 350
- 2012: 405