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Increased police presence to crack down on impaired driving

by Ryan Pivoney | August 19, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. | Updated August 19, 2021 at 9:59 a.m.
Maries County deputies arrested a man suspected of drunken driving and leaving the scene of this one-car rollover wreck Sunday, Nov. 5, 2012 along Route V in Maries County.

As traffic fatalities keep pace with last year's 10-year record, Missouri Department of Transportation's latest roadway safety campaign is targeting impaired driving.

MODOT, in conjunction with law enforcement around the state, is getting ready to start its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which runs from Friday through Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Missouri's law enforcement agencies will participate in the campaign with extra police presence and patrolling focused on impaired driving violations.

The Jefferson City Police Department will have extra officers, funded through grants provided by MODOT's Division of Highway and Traffic Safety, on duty throughout the campaign.

John Hotz, director of the public information and education division of the Missouri Highway Patrol, said impaired driving is a major concern in Missouri.

"Every year, we lose around 200 people because of this deadly decision," Hotz said in a news release. "We will continue our year-round efforts of enforcing Missouri's DWI laws and use this campaign to create more public awareness regarding the dangers and consequences of impaired driving."

Nicole Hood, MODOT's state highway safety and traffic engineer, said the campaign is intended to keep impaired drivers off Missouri's roadways.

Last year, 217 people were killed and 713 were seriously injured in impaired driving crashes around the state.

Over the course of last year's Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, law enforcement officers made 213 DWI arrests, 45 DUI drug arrests and 12 arrests for minors in possession.

"We're continuing to see the speeding and the reckless driving behaviors, it's just a very disturbing trend," Hood said. "One of those reckless driving behaviors is driving while impaired - that can be impairment, that could be use of alcohol, illegal drugs and even over the counter drugs."

Impaired drivers should find an alternative way home, Hood said, such as calling a friend or hiring a cab or Uber.

Walking home while under the influence is not recommended, she said, because one in three pedestrians that are killed nationwide were impaired.

"Oftentimes, that alternative isn't necessarily the safe alternative if you've been impaired," Hood said.

Missouri has had 605 roadway fatalities so far this year as of Aug. 15, 66 percent of which were not wearing a seatbelt.

Hood said the number of fatalities this year is keeping pace with the number of fatalities last year, which was the highest the state had seen since 2007.

Last year, there were 987 crash fatalities in Missouri, 67 percent of which were not wearing a seatbelt.

"We're trying to encourage folks to make sure that they take that personal responsibility because drivers just carry a huge responsibility when they're operating their vehicle," Hood said. "Nearly all our fatalities are preventable if we could just get folks to take that personal responsibility."

The campaign comes near the end of the 100 deadliest days of summer, a trend of increased fatalities amid the summer travel season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Hood said it's historically one of the deadliest times on Missouri's roadways, and on highways around the country, because more people are traveling on vacation and more teenagers are on the road.

Last year, there were 368 fatalities recorded between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So far this year, 241 fatalities have been recorded during the 100 deadliest days of summer, which aren't yet over.

Motorcycle fatalities in Missouri are also up by nearly 30 percent so far this year, Hood said, and the number of people killed without a helmet is even higher.

By this time last year, only two individuals riding motorcycles without a helmet died in traffic crashes. So far this year, that number has climbed to 39.

"We've definitely seen a significant increase in the number of unhelmeted riders that have been killed in crashes," Hood said.

Despite a new law removing the helmet requirement for Missourians 26 and older that took effect last August, Hood said the department is raising awareness and encouraging the use of a helmet for all motorcycle riders.

Traffic safety is also a priority as the school year starts.

Hood said the start of the school year means more traffic on the roadways, different traffic patterns and more pedestrians.

The Jefferson City Police Department indicated it will have increased police presence in school zones to enforce school zone speed limits, child restraint violations and school bus stop sign violations, among other traffic violations.

The department will have extra officers on duty throughout the city's school zones and along school bus routes, which is made possible through funding provided by MODOT's Highway Safety and Traffic Division.

"Drivers are encouraged to be patient with school traffic, to exercise added caution when driving in or near school zones and to be attentive to school buses while loading and unloading children," JCPD wrote in a news release.

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