Roughly Two-Thirds of Missouri's 1,000 Traffic Deaths Were People Not Wearing Seat Belts

Around 1,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2021 in Missouri, according to data found by the state's Department of Transportation.

A total of 1,007 deaths in the state were attributed to car accidents, increasing by 2 percent over 2020's traffic deaths. The new data also showed that 2021 was the second straight year that traffic fatalities have risen, as the state previously saw a steady decline in accidents for nearly a decade.

Perhaps most surprising about the Missouri data were the causes attributed to these deaths. Around two-thirds of all traffic fatalities were attributed to the deceased person not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Furthermore, 41 percent of fatal crashes involved speeding or driving too fast for conditions.

"These fatalities are unacceptable, alarming and preventable," said Patrick McKenna, the current director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. "There are simple things we can all do to make a real impact on our roadways. Wearing your seat belt is your best line of defense in a crash and avoiding distractions can prevent those crashes in the first place. Buckle up, phone down."

With the number of fatal traffic accidents increasing, the Missouri Department of Transportation and other entities are urging citizens to stay safe while on the road. The Missouri State Patrol is one such organization and has reiterated its commitment to promoting road safety.

"The Missouri State Patrol is dedicated to promoting safety upon our highways and working to reduce the number and severity of traffic crashes," said Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Eric Olsen. "Every motorist who uses Missouri roadways plays an important role in reducing traffic fatalities. The public can help us prevent fatalities by paying attention to the full-time job of driving, obeying all traffic laws, and wearing a seat belt."

The uptick in fatal traffic accidents is not isolated to just Missouri. Although final numbers have yet to be released, the U.S. Department of Transportation released data in October that showed that road fatalities across the country have increased 18.4 percent in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020. The report estimates that around 20,160 people died in crashes during from January to June of 2021.

"This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America," said transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg during the data's publication. "It will take all levels of government, industries, advocates, engineers, and communities across the country working together toward the day when family members no longer have to say goodbye to loved ones because of a traffic crash."

Car Accident
Around two-thirds of the 1,007 traffic deaths recorded in Missouri in 2021 were caused by not wearing a seat belt. This stock photo shows an example of a car crash. iStock/Getty

Drivers using a cellphone were involved in more than 2,200 crashes in Missouri last year, although the department said distracted driving is widely underreported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Car Crash
More than two-thirds of the 1,000 fatal crashes in 2021 in Missouri are reported to be caused by not wearing a seatbelt and driving too fast. Above, a stock photo showing a car collision. kadmy/iStock / Getty Images Plus