Missouri's high DUI fatality rate is on the decline

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. The battle has not been won but at least it's trending in the right direction.

Missouri has been among the worst states when it comes to DUI fatalities over the years but since the turn of the century the numbers have been on a downward slope.

According to stats provided by QuoteWizard by LendingTree, Missouri had the 9th highest number of drunk-driving fatalities in the country with 432 in the year 2000.

But by 2017 that total had dropped by almost 42 percent down to 254, 14th-highest in the nation.

And in stats provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, last year the number dipped to 147, a 66 percent drop from 2000.

Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesperson Sam Carpenter points out though that alcohol is still a major factor in accidents.

"Last year in all the fatal crashes that we had, 16 percent of them were alcohol-related," he said. "That 16 percent should be easily erased if you use services like Uber, Lyft, taxis or designated drivers."

Certainly the growth of ride share services like Uber and Lyft have helped as has increased emphasis on drunk-driving enforcement and education programs presented in high schools.

"We show very graphic videos of drinking and driving, texting and driving, just any kind of distracted driving and what the end result can be," Carpenter said.

22 year-old Tabitha Clark of Springfield is an example of that result.

On December 5, 2015 she and some friends were headed home after bowling when their car was T-boned by a drunk driver in a truck.

She spent four months in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

"The guy who hit her got a five-year sentence," Tabitha's mother, Yvonne, said. "Tabitha got a life sentence."

Tabitha's dream of becoming a veterinarian has been replaced by a dream of walking and talking normally again.

She says the anger and "Why me?" moments are behind her.

"I've come to terms with it," she said.

Tabitha says the biggest difference in her life is the way people perceive her.

"People treat me different," she said. "They treat me like a baby."

She now spends some of her time speaking to people who've been convicted of drinking and driving, doing her part to educate the public.

She says she welcomes the news that DUI fatalities are going down.

"I'm glad," Tabitha said. "I don't want anyone else to end up like me."

"This can happen to anybody and it does happen to anybody," Yvonne said. "It's amazing to see grown men cry when we've given a speech or they will come up and hug her and thank her for the courage to come out and speak. It's tough to do but as long as we can get out there and help that's all we're trying to do."

Tabitha is a courageous young woman who believes her life was spared to get out a very important message.

"Don't drink and drive!" she says.

Click HERE to read DUI report.