Traffic fatalities up statewide

The Missouri Highway Patrol says traffic fatalities are up nearly 20 percent from last year, the first increase after six years of decline.

And Mid-Missouri is up more than 41 percent, according to the patrol’s Troop F statistics, with 41 deaths reported through Monday night this year, compared with 29 fatalities through June 25, 2011.

The state already has recorded 375 traffic fatalities this year, compared with 313 in 2011.

The patrol says swerving over the center line or off the road is a common theme in most of the accidents.

Lt. John Hotz, an information officer at the patrol’s general headquarters, also noted “the mild winter weather hurt us,” because more people were driving than usual.

The highest increases in fatalities were in southern and central Missouri.

Troop D, which includes Springfield and Joplin, reported a 59 percent increase from last year.

The patrol’s superintendent, Col. Ron Replogle, says more than two-thirds of the occupants in the accidents were not wearing seat belts.

Hotz added, of the last 234 fatal accidents he’s reviewed, 10 involved pedestrians and 30 involved motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), where seat belts wouldn’t be a factor.

In some cases, investigating officers haven’t been able to tell if seat belts were used or not.

But, in 183 of the fatalities, 49 victims were using seat belts, and 134 were not, Hotz said.

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