Traffic fatalities across the Missouri side of the greater metro area continue to rise, and officials say it’s the result of poor driving decisions.
“It’s gone up each of the last three years,” said Brian Kidwell, district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. “It’s gone up statewide. It’s a major concern.”
The numbers, as tallied by MoDOT, are these:
• 2014 – 128 fatalities.
• 2015 – 149.
• 2016 – 168.
• 2017, through late July – 102.
MoDOT lists five main contributing causes: speed, impaired driving, improper lane usage and lane changes, failure to yield to others, and distracted or inattentive driving.
Although almost all states have banned texting while driving – and 15 have banned cell-phone use while driving – such legislation has gone nowhere in the Missouri General Assembly, leaving in place a policy of allowing both.
Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, stressed that the rise in fatalities is not from the condition of Missouri’s roads.
“That’s really a reflection of behavioral patterns and of policy measures,” he said.
Another illustration: Two weekends ago, officers in Missouri issued 1,951 speeding tickets over three days, part of a six-state crackdown on speeding. During that time, 180 crashes occurred – 33 of them related to speed. Nationwide, speed was a factor in more than one-fourth of all fatal wrecks in 2015, MoDOT says.
MoDOT’s Kansas City District covers nine counties, from Platte and Cass east to Saline and Johnson. That area is home to 1.3 million people. MoDOT has 7,700 miles of roads and nearly 1,500 bridges in that area – 50 of them major bridges, thanks in part to the Missouri River, Kidwell said. Also, 107 of those bridges are among the 883 statewide that are deemed by the federal government to be poor condition.
MoDOT says in this district it responds to 6,500 incidents a year, everything from flat tires or trash in the roadway to chemical spills. All of those things add up to congestion and irritated drivers.
“It’s devastating to your time and to the economy,” Kidwell said.