Friday, January 9, 2009

Traffic Fatalities Reduced for Third Straight Year 2008 Traffic Fatalities Down 5 Percent

JEFFERSON CITY -- For the third straight year, precious lives were saved from traffic crashes on Missouri roads. Preliminary fatality reports show a continuing downward trend from 2005 to 2008 due to the combined efforts of highway safety advocates in the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.

"If the current reduction in traffic fatalities continues over the next few years, we will be on track to meet our goal of 850 traffic fatalities by 2012," said Leanna Depue, chair for the coalition's executive committee. "We'd ultimately like that number to be zero, but a third straight year of reducing fatalities is a step in the right direction."

In 2007, Missouri recorded fewer than 1,000 fatalities for the first time in more than 15 years. This allowed the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety to meet an ambitious goal one year early with traffic fatalities falling to less than 1,000, at 992. In October 2008, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety announced a new goal for traffic fatality reductions at 850 or less by 2012. The last time Missouri reached less than 850 fatalities was 1949.

One of the top strategies for meeting the new goal is strengthening Missouri's seat belt law to allow for primary enforcement. Unfortunately, early reports show that 479 of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2008 were not wearing their seat belts. A 2008 survey reported only 76 percent of Missourians are buckling up. The state's rate has been at a plateau since 2004 and remains consistently below the national average of 83 percent. In the past three years, nearly seven out of ten vehicle occupants killed in Missouri traffic crashes were not wearing their seat belt.

"Your seatbelt is your lifeline and your single best defense in any traffic crash," said Depue. "A primary seat belt law in Missouri would increase the usage rate saving 90 lives and preventing 1,000 serious injuries in the first year it goes into effect."

Amending the current law will also provide $16 - $20 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering. 2009 is the last year this grant is available.

Of more than 500 Missouri traffic laws, the current safety belt law is the only one that has a secondary enforcement provision - a driver must be stopped for another reason before they can be cited for a safety belt violation.

Other measures aimed at decreasing fatalities and serious injuries include continued improvements in engineering, law enforcement and public education.

For more information visit Buckle Up to Arrive Alive.

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