JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. | The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued 668 moving violations during its high speed enforcement campaign during July 17-18.
During the weekend campaign, the Highway Patrol made 2,557 traffic stops, issued 1,256 warnings, issued 598 speed citations, 264 seat belt citations, assisted 513 motorists and worked 119 crashes. 200 of the 598 speeding citations were issued to motorists traveling at least 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a reduction in traffic but an increase in very high speed tickets and an increase in our general crashes when there was less traffic,” said Highway Patrol Sergeant Eric Brown, Troop B public information officer. “You would expect to see less fatal crashes with less cars on the road.”
Instead, Missouri has seen an increase in fatal vehicle accidents. As of July 22, there have been 512 road fatalities in Missouri this year. At this point last year, there were 443 fatalities.
Brown said he wants to remind the public that driving is a full-time job and motorists should obey the speed limit and avoid distractions.
“Just be safe, courteous drivers and drive defensively,” Brown said. “Any time a traffic crash occurs, almost 100% of the time it's due to someone making a bad decision – whether that decision was driving too fast, not paying attention while they're driving, following too close or driving while they're impaired.”
Across the state, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has seen a 58% increase in speeds 26 miles per hour above speed limits from January to June 2020 when compared to the four-year average. Troopers issued 4,869 citations to drivers traveling 26 miles per hour or more over the speed limit during the first half of the year.
Speeding has also been a problem locally that the Ralls County Sheriff's Department has been addressing.
Ralls County Chief Deputy Ron Haught said his biggest concern was the construction work going on at the intersections of Mo. 19 and U.S. 61 and the U.S. 61 exit at New London. He added there has been a couple accidents there since construction began.
“There's a lot of construction workers and a lot of construction being done, so we're out there trying to slow people down,” Haught said. “It's just a pretty dangerous situation with people (not) following traffic signs and (speeding).”
The Ralls County Sheriff's Department will sometimes assist the Missouri State Highway Patrol and conduct joint operations with them.
Haught said the Ralls County Sheriff's Department has stepped up enforcement to attempt to reduce accidents.
“At the end of the day when you've got construction (workers) and other motorists who could be your neighbor, nothing that you're doing is that important that you can't wait until you stop,” Haught said. “People need to remember that we all want to go home and it only takes a second of distraction to create an issue that could make a lifelong problem for somebody.”
There has been an increase in motorcycle and off-road vehicle accidents this year. The Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop B Area has reported five fatalities involving motorcycles and five fatalities involving off-road vehicles such as ATVs and UTVs. That's up from 2019, when Troop B saw one fatality involving a motorcycle and three fatalities involving off-road activities.
From June 1 to July 22 of this year, Troop B has investigated nine crashes involving motorcycles that resulted in an injury or death. Those nine crashes resulted in two deaths, two serious injuries, five moderate injuries and one minor injury. One person was not wearing a helmet.
During the same time period, Troop B investigated 10 crashes involving off-road vehicles that resulted in an injury or death. Those 10 crashes resulted in one death, four serious injuries, seven moderate injuries and four minor injuries. Eight of the injuries were to juveniles and 13 of the victims were not using a safety device.
“It's obviously an issue we need to address and the public needs to be reminded of it so they can watch for it while they're driving,” Brown said.
Brown said a majority of the fatal accidents Troop B works come from drivers not wearing their seat belts and recommended that motorists wear their seat belts while driving.
“That's pretty concerning to me because we're at a point right now that seat belt compliance is very good,” Brown said. “It goes to show you the effectiveness of a seat belt when it comes to protecting you from serious injury or losing your life.”