Tragic Trend: Missouri sees 7% spike in fatal crashes in 2016

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. With several deadly crashes on area roads in recent weeks, it certainly seems to be a bad season for Missouri roadways.

"That is not an imagination thing. That is an accurate thing. We are up in fatalities and it is disturbing," said Sgt. John Lueckenhoff with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

In the last two weeks alone, KY3 has reported on several deadly crashes in the Ozarks. Two crashes- one in Lebanon and one in Greene County- entailed multiple fatalities.

"When you are looking at two or three people losing their lives every day through the entire year, that is tragic," Lueckenhoff said.

Fatal crash numbers are actually down 12% for Troop D encompassing most of southwest Missouri. But, statewide, the numbers are up nearly 7% for the year. As of Thursday, 929 people have died so far on Missouri roads in 2016.

Lueckenhoff said, "We have got to ensure that we are protecting people. And when we talk about these numbers and 61% of them are not wearing seat belts. That is disturbing."

What's behind the increase? As is the usual case, people are still driving while distracted, or not buckled up, or intoxicated- and sometimes all three. But the patrol says the biggest factor is one that, while good for our wallets, it's not for crash numbers.

"The price of oil and gasoline has stayed down. Ultimately, that has meant more vehicles on the road. You put more vehicles on the road, you have more traffic crashes," Lueckenhoff explained.

Deadly crashes hit one of the lowest point in decades in 2012 when the price of gas was much higher, likely deterring people from taking as many trips. Safety officials were hoping to have reached 700 or fewer fatalities by this year.

Come January 1st, the slate is wiped clean for a new year. Troopers hope 2017 is a safer season, and stress the keys to make it that are in our hands.

Lueckenhoff said," If that driver will always drive sober, try to not be distracted, and always buckled that seat belt, we are going to lower those numbers. "