The Coalition for Roadway Safety has a new four-year plan and a new goal for reducing highway fatalities in the state.
The Coalition has set two goals in the past and both of those have been reached, most recently seeing the number of traffic fatalities annually in Missouri drop below 850 in 2010, two years earlier than the Coalition’s target. The new mark is to be at 700 or fewer, by 2016.
Department of Transportation Highway Safety Director Leanna Depue explains how the Coalition arrived at that figure.
“We look at our progress through the various years. We look at strategies that we think have opportunity to save more lives, we do some estimating about how many lives the various strategies would result in (saving), and then we identify a goal which we think would be challenging for us and yet we know that as a state if we’re able to implement our strategic highway safety plan, we should be able to reach.”
The plan includes the “Necessary Nine;” nine steps the Coalition recommends toward meeting that goal.
They include increasing use of seatbelts and the passage of a primary seat belt law, which would allow law enforcement to pull over drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Currently, law enforcement can ticket drivers who aren’t wearing seat belts, but can not pull them over for it.
A new goal is to change traffic safety culture. “We’re really wanting people to make good decisions because it’s just part of their every day operation,” Depue explains, “Not being motivated by a law enforcement officer or some other outside stimulus. We want them to just internally want to be safe.”
The other steps are: expand the installation of rumble strips, increase efforts to reduce the number of substance-impared vehicle drivers and motorcycle operators, improve intersection safety, improve curve safety, improve roadway shoulders, increase enforcement efforts and expand and improve roadway visibility.
The Highway Patrol thinks getting to fewer than 700 highway fatalities in four years is attainable. Spokesman, Lieutenant John Hotz says, “While 700 sounds like a pretty high number, we’re working towards the overall goal of zero deaths. We know that last year was the first time since 1949 that we had actually seen fewer than 800 traffic fatalities on Missouri roadways, so we’re going to continue to do everything we can to work with MODOT and the other partners with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.”
Fatalities for the year in Missouri are up about 6 percent over last year, 684 by Tuesday compared to 641 by the same date in 2011. Hotz says after being dramatically higher earlier in the year, the increase has leveled off.
“We did have a mild winter and there were certainly more traffic deaths in the early part of the year … we’ve seen those numbers go down. They were as high as the 30 percent range in the spring.”
Between January and March, 59 more people died on Missouri highways than during the same period in 2011.