According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, the number of traffic fatalities in Missouri rose in 2022 for the third year in a row. The organization’s data for last year shows that 1,057 people died in roadway crashes, making it the deadliest year for traffic safety in the state since 2006.
For the families and individuals who survive these accidents, every one of these deaths represents a tragedy that will continue to affect them as long as they live.
One of the main questions they will ask is simply “Why?” Why did this accident happen? The answer, of course, depends upon the exact circumstances of each individual case.
But on a different scale, researchers have the same question: Why does the number of traffic fatalities keep going up?
A sudden change
One reason researchers are so concerned about this question is that, until relatively recently, the number of traffic fatalities appeared to be in decline on America’s roads. New vehicles come with safety features that are meant to protect drivers and passengers. These include airbags and other inventions that can protect people in the event of a crash, as well as sensors and other devices that can prevent collisions from happening in the first place.
These technological advances joined other developments to keep Americans safer on the roads. The number of traffic deaths began a decline around 15 years ago, and in 2019, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety noted 881 traffic deaths in the state — a high number, but lower than it had been for years.
Things changed quite suddenly in 2020. In that fateful year, researchers all over the country were taken by surprise by a sudden increase in traffic fatalities. This was especially shocking because so many people were staying at home in the early days of the global health emergency. The conclusion many researchers drew was that, although there were fewer vehicles on the road, drivers were taking greater risks — speeding, texting while driving, declining to wear seatbelts and other risky behavior — making every accident that did happen more serious than it might have been.
More frightening still, this increase continued into 2021, even as much of the country started opening up again. According to some sources, traffic deaths declined slightly, by 0.03%, in 2022, but that wasn’t the case in Missouri. Here, the increase continued for the third year in a row.
What’s behind the increase in Missouri’s traffic fatalities? Risky driving appears to be the most important factor.
About 64% of traffic deaths in recent years have involved people who weren’t wearing seatbelts. Distracted driving — which includes texting while driving — was a factor in about 382 deaths.
One of the biggest factors was aggressive driving. According to the Coalition for Roadway Safety, between 2017 and 2021, aggressive driving was a factor in 2,547 deaths. This was more than twice the number of traffic deaths related to substance abuse during the same period.
Careful drivers can protect themselves by wearing their seatbelts and following other traffic laws and safety tips. Unfortunately, they must share the road with drivers who are not so careful.
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are imperfect means of making the roads safer, but they can serve as ways to discourage people from being careless drivers, and they can be crucial for giving survivors the resources they need to carry on after an accident.