When it comes to road safety in Missouri, state laws are lacking in two main areas — enforcement of seatbelt devices and monitoring distracted drivers, according to a national safety report.
Missouri ranked last in overall safety measures with 24 percent in the National Safety Council's most recent report. The report analyzed aspects of road, home, and community and workplace safety across the state.
In total, there were 11 states, including Missouri, that received an F in overall safety.
In road safety, specifically, the state scored a 29 percent, indicating Missouri has failed to have at least two indicators that illustrate it is trying to deter preventable injuries and deaths based on the NSC's priorities.
In 2015, there were 256 drivers and 89 passengers who suffered from fatal injuries when a safety device was not used, compared to 166 drivers and 49 passengers who buckled up, according to data reported by Missouri Highway Patrol.
In Jefferson City, a 2015 Highway Patrol report also showed 49 people being injured and two being killed when no safety device was used.
"I think this is another verification that we need to implement and enforce a primary seatbelt and a texting and driving law," AAA Vice President Mike Right said. "Hopefully, the NSC report provides an impetus for the legislators to pass these laws."
So what are the NSC's priorities?
The indicator that was the most heavily weighted in the report was whether the state has a primary seatbelt law in place, followed by whether all occupants and seating positions are covered by the seatbelt law, as well as requiring seatbelts on school buses.
Under current state law, law enforcement only has the right to ensure any child up to 7 years old or who weighs at least 40 pounds is in an appropriate child safety seat, unless they are 80 pounds or 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Policies regarding distracted drivers are currently non-existent in the state. NSC measured distracted driving based on whether a state had a total ban on cellphones — hand-held and hands-free — for teens and novice drivers and a specified law banning texting for all drivers.
In the same year, communication devices contributed to 2,252 crashes statewide; 74 people in Jefferson City were injured as a result of distracted driving in 2015, according to Highway Patrol data.
Right said this is especially a problem for young people and those who live in rural areas.
For many years, AAA has advocated on behalf of seatbelt laws and has created public service announcements on the importance of driver safety, he explained.
Lisa LeMasper, senior government relations specialist at the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the department has been and continues to support laws geared toward eliminating distracted driving and requiring the use of safety devices.
"Enforcing these two laws would provide a boost of safety on our roads," LeMasper said. "The ranking is not a reflection of MoDOT, it is a reflection of Missouri's safety policies."