MoDOT report shows increase in traffic fatalities

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JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri Department of Transportation recorded the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2012.

MoDOT reports the state recorded 853 traffic fatalities in 2015, which was an 11.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Speeding, impaired driving and driver inattention were cited as the leading causes of death. MoDOT said two new trends in traffic fatalities appeared: substance-impaired driving and increases in improper lane use.

John Hotz, Director of the Public Information and Education Division of Missouri State Highway Patrol, said even with preventative measures and outreach education, it is the person behind the wheel that decides whether or not there's a traffic crash. 

"We encourage motorists to pay attention when they're driving and focus on the task at hand not other distractions in the car," Hotz said. "And of course don't drive after you've been drinking and make sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained."

MoDOT said in a news release that 63 percent of the 2015 fatalities were not wearing seat belts.

"[Not wearing your seatbelt] may not necessarily lead to a traffic crash taking place," Hotz said. "But if you're not wearing a seatbelt and a crash does take place, then there's a very good chance you'll be very seriously injured or killed in that crash."

MSHP said it spends time in both enforcement and educational efforts regarding traffic and vehicular safety. Troopers visit schools and businesses to provide educational programs and spread awareness.

Hotz said MSHP constantly evaluates its efforts to ensure its reaching its maximum audience.

"We have begun utilizing social media to try and get that message out about the dangers of these risky driving behaviors, as well as emphasizing the importance of wearing seat belts," Hotz said.

MSHP said wearing a seatbelt, focusing on the road and driving sober are some of the best ways to prevent a crash.