Fatalities up; buckle in and pay attention

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Missouri had seen a downward trend in traffic fatalities since 2006 -- until this year, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. So far this year, the state has seen a 13 percent increase. That's a troubling statistic, with several months remaining in 2015. Missouri Department of Transportation reports 519 people have died in traffic accidents as of Aug. 17.

As the Southeast Missourian recently reported, 40 of those deaths were in Southeast Missouri and Bootheel counties. Many were likely avoidable, as 23 of the 40 were not wearing seat belts. Along with not being strapped in, other primary causes of the crashes were inattention, impaired driving and speeding. Think about it: Almost 58 percent of these deaths were precipitated by decisions made by a driver. Statewide, the percentage was even higher; 61 percent of those killed did not wear a seat belt.

Being ejected from a car obviously decreases the chance of survival in the event of a crash, so wearing a seat belt is paramount. If this does not come naturally, take steps to remind yourself until it does become second nature. Put a note on the dashboard, for example.

Texting probably figured in to the "inattention" that contributed to these fatalities, considering today's culture of constant cellphone use. One way to remove the temptation to use the cellphone while driving is to turn it off. Sometimes, we're not the ones initiating a conversation on the road, but the sound of a text notification causes us to pick it up and read, and we know it only takes a second for the worst to occur. It's not worth it. Please turn the phone off.

We want you to be safe out there. Take the necessary precautions for your family, your friends, your fellow drivers -- and yourself.

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