The Highway Patrol is pleased to see a decrease in deaths on the road over Thanksgiving weekend, but troubled to see how easy it may have been to prevent them.

There were four deaths on Missouri roadways between Wednesday night and Sunday.

“Last year we had six people that were killed. Of course that’s six too many and this year’s four too many. We’re always trying to get that number down to zero but at least we’re headed in the right direction in reducing those fatalities and injuries have gone down as well,” said Captain Tim Hull with the Highway Patrol

But Hull says the thing each crash had in common is concerning.

“In all four of these crashes, the people that were killed were not wearing a seat belt and were either partially or totally ejected at the part of the crash. So unfortunately there’s four people’s lives that could have been saved if they’d taken that two or three seconds to put that seat belt on and stayed within that vehicle,” Hull said.

Hull says all of the fatal crashes happened on secondary Missouri highways.

“Some of those areas, it’s hard to maintain visibility but we’re trying to get that visibility out there and make them aware that they do need to slow down,”  Hull said.

The Highway Patrol did expand its “10 mile trooper” program to some of those secondary highways, after seeing success on major highways over the past few years. Hull says in addition to enforcing speeding and DUI laws, troopers focused on enforcing seat belt laws over the holiday weekend.

Here is more of the Highway Patrol’s official counts from the holiday weekend (barring any late reporting):

Troopers investigated 364 traffic crashes, which included 114 injuries. In addition, troopers arrested 144 people for driving while intoxicated. [During the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday, troopers investigated 333 traffic crashes, which included 126 injuries. Statewide, there were six fatalities over the 2009 Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, troopers arrested 135 people for driving while intoxicated in 2009.]

Two of the fatality traffic crashes investigated by troopers occurred in the Troop D, Springfield area. The other fatalities occurred in the Troop B, Macon area, and Troop F, Jefferson City area.

One fatal traffic crash occurred on Wednesday, November 24, 2010. Jimmie L. Stelling, 58, of Exeter, MO, was killed when the vehicle he was driving ran off the road and overturned. The crash occurred in Barry County on Missouri Highway 76 at Ridgeley. Stelling was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash and was ejected. The vehicle then caught fire. Dr. Cardwell, Cox South Hospital, pronounced Stelling dead at the hospital.

One fatal traffic crash occurred on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25, 2010. David M. Easley, 31, of Novinger, MO, died when after passing two vehicles, he lost control of the vehicle he was driving. He traveled off the right side of the roadway, overcorrected, crossed over to the left side of the roadway, and began sliding. His vehicle returned back to the roadway and overturned several times before traveling off the right side of the roadway and coming to rest on its top. The crash occurred in Adair County on Missouri Route O two miles north of Novinger. Easley was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from the vehicle. Adair County Coroner Brian Noe pronounced Easley dead at the scene.

One fatality occurred on Saturday, November 27, 2010. Nickolas C. Riga, 21, of Edwards, MO, died when the vehicle in which he was a passenger failed to negotiate a curve and ran off the right side of the road. The vehicle then struck an embankment and continued to overturn before striking a tree. The crash occurred in Camden County on Missouri Route FF north of Lake Road FF-17. Riga was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. Camden County Coroner Bart Simms pronounced Riga dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle sustained minor injuries. It is unknown whether or not he was wearing a seat belt.

One fatality occurred on Sunday, November 28, 2010. Trevor K. Waugh, 25, of Marshfield, MO, died when the vehicle he was driving failed to negotiate a curve, traveled off the roadway, and overturned. The crash occurred in Dallas County on Missouri Route M at Missouri Route W north of Marshfield, MO. Waugh was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash and was ejected from the vehicle. Dallas County Coroner Lamont Swanson pronounced Waugh dead at the scene.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]