At some time or other all of us gripe about government services. But without those services at the city, county, state or national level, the quality of our lives would be seriously reduced. The work being done by the Missouri State Highway Patrol is a good example.

At some time or other all of us gripe about government services. But without those services at the city, county, state or national level, the quality of our lives would be seriously reduced. The work being done by the Missouri State Highway Patrol is a good example.


Sgt. Collin M. Stosberg, public information and education officer of Troop A, spoke recently spoke at the Independence Host Lion’s Club. Troop A covers 13 counties in western Missouri and has 122 uniformed officers, plus almost as many other employees.


Stosberg pointed out that Missouri had 11.3 deaths per 100 million miles of travel in 1945 that has been reduced to only 1.2 today.


“In fact, in 2006 Missouri led the nation with a 13 percent decrease in traffic fatalities,” he said.


This tremendous reduction is even more impressive when one considers that in 1945 Missouri had fewer than 2 million licensed drivers compared with more than 4 million today. So even with more drivers and an expanded road system, our roads are safer than they were 65 years ago. Some credit must go to better roads, but much credit must go to a dedicated, well-run highway patrol system.


The latest available annual traffic death statistics show a steady decrease in alcohol-related deaths, deaths associated with commercial motor vehicles, deaths of drivers under 21, deaths of drivers 55 and older and motorcycle-related deaths.


“Many of these improvements,” says Sgt. Stosberg, “are the results of better cooperative efforts among all law enforcement agencies. This covers DWI checkpoints, saturation tactics, work zone and commercial vehicle enforcement, seat belt enforcement and higher patrol car visibility. For example, on high usage holidays we will have one trooper stationed every 10 miles on every major road in our area.”


Of the 960 killed in 2008 traffic crashes, 394 were not wearing a seat belt, and at least half of those would have survived it they had been wearing one.


Studies suggest that when a teen is behind the wheel and is text messaging it lowers their mental ability to that of a 7-year-old. That is one reason why in 2009 new legislation made texting while driving an infraction for any person 21 years of age or younger.


Drinking and driving remains a serious problem. In 2009 almost one-third of motor vehicle deaths were alcohol related. To some extent this sorry situation must be laid at the feet of lax court enforcement. In Missouri one can have up to three DUI arrests before risking prison time. No other industrialized nation is that lenient. Speeding is also a primary contributing factor in 40.7 percent of fatal crashes.


Driver inattention – being distracted – still seems to be the largest single factor in automobile crashes. Inattention can be anything from using a telephone while driving to driving while drowsy.


Stosberg said, “Four areas still needing improvement are 1) stricter enforcement, particularly of drivers with revoked or suspended licenses, 2) the reduction of anything that causes driver inattention, 3) reducing excessive speed and, 4) enforcement of persons driving under the influence of alcohol. Any one of these improvements would have resulted in some of the 868 people who died in Missouri traffic accidents in 2009 being with us today.”