Research shows that fatalities can be prevented if the ones behind the wheel take proper measures. When operating a vehicle, those driving must take personal responsibility for their own safety and for the safety of others in their vehicle by always requiring seat belts to be on while driving or riding. Sixty-one percent of those killed in our state this year were not wearing their seat belt. The national average for seat belt usage is 87%; however, in Missouri, only 79% are obeying the law by buckling up. Six out of ten occupants of vehicles killed in 2014 traffic crashes were not wearing their seat belt, and since the first of 2015, it is estimated that 61% of all Missouri fatality victims were unbuckled. Seat belts clearly do save lives, and if you are not wearing yours, you are gambling with your life each time you fail to put it on when driving or riding in a moving vehicle.
Another of the “big four” in causes of traffic fatalities involves impaired driving, meaning the drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationwide, approximately every 51 minutes an alcohol-impaired driver is responsible for another death, either his or her own or some other person’s. Statistics show that in 2013, over ten thousand people lost their lives because of alcohol-impaired drivers. Of that number, 200 were children ages 14 or younger, one-half of whom were riding in a car being driven by an alcohol-impaired driver. Missouri has a zero-tolerance law, meaning that if a driver under twenty-one years old has even a trace of alcohol in his or her blood, their driver’s license will be suspended. Thirty percent of all traffic fatalities in our state are alcohol-related.
Speeding is driving too fast for road conditions, racing or exceeding the posted speed limits and frequently results is accidents with loss of life. Drivers are urged to slow down and follow posted speed limits, and all motorists are also reminded to slow down and pay close attention while driving thru work areas. In 2014, seven people lost their lives in work zone crashes on our state roads and two died on local county roads. Besides slowing down for work zones, motorists are urged to pay attention to the presence of emergency vehicles and give them room.
Missouri has a “Slow Down and Move Over” law that requires drivers to do just that—slow down or move over when flashing lights are present, even when the lights are on the shoulders of roads.
Distracted driving is also a dangerous activity and involves texting, using a cell phone, eating, or not paying attention while driving. According to the Department of Transportation’s figures for 2014, 1.6 million traffic accidents nationwide involved cell phone use. In the recent past, Missouri made it illegal for drivers under twenty-one years of age to text while driving, though the idea makes sense for all drivers, regardless of age. According to a recent survey of adult drivers, almost fifty percent said they text while driving—certainly not a safe practice for them or anyone else in their vicinity.
Driving is serious business and anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road is unsafe and a cause for concern. If anyone questions the true severity of the problem, have him or her talk with the survivors and families of the crashes that took 759 of our Missourian’s lives last year or those left behind from the 519 Missourians killed on state roads, so far, this year. Drive safe. Be safe.