COLUMBIA, Mo.- The Missouri Highway Patrol says state troopers have issued 124,000 citations for speeding in 2017.
Highway Patrol Lieutenant Mike Watson testified Wednesday afternoon before the 21st century Missouri transportation system task force in Columbia.
“Speed and speed-related, whether it’s driving too fast for the conditions or just actually driving over the speed limit, is the leading cause for all fatal crashes in the state of Missouri,” Watson says.
Watson testifies one of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s primary purposes is enforcing traffic laws and enforcing safety on highways, citing chapter 43.
Watson also says state troopers have written 62,000 citations for seat belt violations in 2017, emphasizing that seat belts save lives.
“We’ve known that for years and that’s one thing that we’re extremely passionate about,” says Watson. “Not only us but emergency services, law enforcement, MoDOT.”
Missouri House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, has pre-filed primary seat belt legislation, which would allow law enforcement officers to enforce the seat belt law as a stand-alone offense.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Sandra Karsten, who serves on the task force, told the audience at Columbia’s Stoney Creek conference center that a distracted driver struck a state trooper’s door on the shoulder this past weekend. She says the trooper had to dive into the seat to avoid being struck.
We followed-up after the hearing to obtain more information about that incident. Lieutenant Watson tells Missourinet the distracted motorist was driving a pickup truck and that it happened north of Rolla.
The issue of texting while driving was also discussed again at Wednesday’s meeting. Watson notes Missouri’s current law bans texting while driving for those under the age of 21.
Missouri state troopers have assisted more than 17,000 motorists this year.
“We’re in the business of service, obviously, and not only to help those folks out, but also safety for the other people that are on the highway,” Watson says.
Watson also testifies state troopers have investigated 36,000 traffic crashes statewide this year, and have made about 7,300 arrests for DWI and for drug violations.
The task force will submit its recommendations to the Missouri Legislature by January 1.
Funding will be a key recommendation. Missouri’s fuel tax hasn’t been raised since 1996, and the Show-Me State ranks 47th in the nation in revenue per mile.
Task force chairman State Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, on Wednesday suggested a six to ten cent gasoline tax increase, along with a seven to 12 cent diesel tax increase.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted Wednesday’s hearing, along with a reception after the meeting.
Columbia Chamber leaders note the reception gave local business leaders an opportunity to speak directly to task force members about Columbia’s specific needs, including I-70 and the congested I-70 and Highway 63 interchange.