The last time annual traffic fatalities were as low as the preliminary numbers for 2011, drivers lucky enough to have a radio in the car could cruise while listening to the new recording of "Some Enchanted Evening" by Perry Como.
Though the count will not be considered final for a few months, the Missouri Department of Transportation announced that as of Jan. 4, Missouri traffic crash fatalities totaled 773 in 2011. This is nearly 6 percent lower than the 821 fatalities experienced in 2010 and the lowest total since the late 1940s.
"Last year was the sixth consecutive year Missouri's crash fatality rate fell," said Leanna Depue, MoDOT's Highway Safety director. "We applaud Missouri drivers who pay attention, drive defensively and take care to travel safely. They share credit for this drop in fatalities with a number of hard-working law enforcement professionals and emergency services personnel, those who focus on highway and vehicle safety improvements and messengers who help people adopt safer behaviors. These dedicated folks help more people arrive alive."
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, a group of safety partners, challenged the state to work toward a goal of 850 or fewer roadway fatalities by 2012. That goal was met in 2010 and has since been surpassed. But Depue said the coalition would not rest and would continue to work toward zero fatalities in Missouri.
Deaths on Missouri roads have dropped every year since 2005. The fatality total hit 1,257 in 2005, dropped 13 percent to 1,096 in 2006 and dropped 10 percent to 992 in 2007. Numbers dropped another 9 percent to 878 in 2009, were down 3 percent to 821 in 2010 and then dropped another 6 percent from 2010 totals.
The Missouri Highway Patrol's Troop D, which includes 18 southwest Missouri counties and Monett, recorded 132 fatalities in 2011, a three-year low and down 15 percent from 155 in 2010.