By: Jenny Gray
Missouri Highway Patrol officials are asking motorists to make safety a priority this holiday season.
In 2017, there were 1,618 traffic crashes during the Christmas counting period. In those crashes, seven people were killed and another 541 were injured. During the 2017 Christmas holiday, troopers arrested 92 people for driving while impaired.
The 2018 Christmas holiday counting period begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 21, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 25.
“Please be a safe, courteous driver this holiday season,” said Lt. Col. Eric T. Olson, acting superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “If your plans include alcohol, designate a sober driver.”
Sgt. Scott White of the Patrol also recommends to “put down the cellphone.”
“Almost every traffic violation that we pull someone over for starts with a distraction,” he said.
“I wasn’t paying attention” is a popular answer by drivers who cross the center line, roll off the right side of the road or speed, White added.
And, texting while driving is a violation for people in Missouri under the age of 21. People 21 or older should also rethink that habit.
“It’s not a secret that distracted driving causes accidents,” White said. “We see it every day, people flipping through their phones.”
A spate of recent accidents along Interstate 70 was worsened by distracted driving.
“It seems more and more people are taking videos and photos while driving by crash scenes,” he said. “That really increases the risk of secondary crashes, especially on I-70.”
It’s hard enough to drive focused without worrying about talking on cellphones, taking pictures with them or checking some social media post. That behavior could cost someone a life — changing a family forever.
“Driving is the first privilege we get in our lives that allows us to kill someone by accident,” White said.
How to be a safer driver
There are other things drivers can and should do to improve traffic safety this holiday season and throughout the winter.
Check vehicles before traveling to ensure they are in good working condition. Make sure drivers are well rested before hitting the highway, no matter how short the distance. Keep an eye on the weather. Above all, obey all traffic laws; be a courteous driver and drive sober.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. The Road Condition Report number is 888-275-6636. Allow extra time to reach your destination and obey all traffic laws.
If faced with a traffic emergency, motorists can contact the Missouri Highway Patrol at 800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone. This emergency number will ring into the nearest Highway Patrol headquarters. Motorists should use this number if they are in a traffic crash, witness a crash or crime, or observe a stranded motorist in need of assistance, or other traffic emergencies.
The only 100 percent survivable traffic crash is the one that never happens. Make sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained in a seat belt or child restraint.