Fatal traffic accidents in Missouri up 13 percent

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JEFFERSON CITY - Traffic accident fatalities have increased in Missouri and the nation over this time last year.

In Missouri, the Missouri Department of Transportation said there is currently a 13 percent increase in fatalities over this time last year.

"That mean's we're up 61 over this time last year," said MoDOT highway safety director Bill Whitfield. "There has been 61 additional people that have died on Missouri roadways because of this increase in crashes."

According to the National Safety Council, the number of traffic deaths in the nation is also higher by 14 percent than this time last year.

The National Safety Council reports between January and June 19,000 people have died in traffic crashes throughout the U.S. This number the council reports puts 2015 on pace to be the deadliest driving year since 2007.

In the National Safety Council report, factors like lower gas prices and a rebound in the economy could be behind an increase in vehicles traveling and the number of accidents.

In Missouri, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reports there have been 522 deaths in 2015 with 64 deaths in August.

Whitfield said these are unacceptable numbers.

"These crashes and these deaths and serious injuries don't have to happen," Whitfield said.

Whitfield said of all the fatalities that have occurred in 2015, 61 percent of those were unbuckled at the time of the death.

Whitfield said the unbuckled percentage is actually better than previous years, but still he said the department wants to decrease the percent of people who are unbuckled.

Whitfield explains that when an accident occurs three collisions occur; once when the car collides with a fixed object, then when the occupants collide with the inside of the car, and then the internal organs colliding with the skeletal structure.

"The safety belt prevents those last two collisions from occurring and often times too, that's going to be the difference between life and death," Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the state has also seen an increase in the amount of rollover accidents where seat belts could prevent injuries.

Missouri driver Leo Kline said he is not surprised about the high number of deadly accidents.

"You see people on their phones all the time, not paying attention to what they're doing when they're driving and when you're not paying attention it's easy to make mistakes," Kline said.

Kline said he has noticed more police during certain times, but distractions are still a major concern.

"I think they're trying to educate people more about the dangers and stuff of being distracted while you're driving," Kline said.

Whitfield said MoDOT has had median guard cable installed on I-70, rumble strips installed along the edge of roadways, and an increase in sobriety check points and speed enforcement throughout the state.

"At the end of the day the responsibility for us to get our vehicle down the road safely is ours, it's the person behind the wheel," Whitfield said. "I think we're looking for this one answer that's going to help reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries and that answer is the person who is in control of their car."

Whitfield said drivers should also be aware of speed limits, following distances, and distractions. He said that driving is a full-time responsibility and deserves 100 percent undivided attention.

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