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Missouri braces for busy Memorial Day travel weekend


Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year on the roads and also one of the most dangerous times for travelers. 

AAA estimates that 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, a 7% increase over 2022. AAA also reports that Memorial Day road trips are up 6% over last year with 37.1 million Americans driving to their destinations. This is an increase of more than 2 million. 

The region that includes Missouri is expected to see over 3 million travelers driving over the weekend.

"Last year 1,028 people died on roads throughout the state and unfortunately that is the highest number since 2006," David Reich, the Director of Public Communications for the National Road Safety Foundation, said.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off what travel experts refer to as “the 100 deadliest days,” in which there is a large increase in traffic deaths. 

The National Road Safety Foundation reports that 30% of teen driving deaths occur during this period. Crash fatalities hit a 16-year high in 2021 when they reached 42,915, according to statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association. 

A variety of issues ranging from distracted and drowsy driving to impaired and aggressive driving account for most of these deaths.

"Traffic is heavy it's a long weekend, so many people are leaving for summer vacation and unfortunately there is often alcohol involved."

Captain Brian Leer of the Boone County Sheriff's Office says he also expects more drivers to be under the influence of marijuana during Memorial Day weekend now that it's legal.

"Have a plan to not drive impaired. it's not the time to make that plan to make that plan after the first beer or after the first marijuana ingestion. The first thing that’s impaired is judgment so we tell everybody to have a plan before they even go out," Leer says.

Leer says that Boone county is doing everything it can to help prevent impaired driving crashes. For the next two weeks they will be running an overtime project focusing on hazardous moving violations.  

Speeding is responsible for about 26 percent of all fatal crashes. Teenagers are one of the biggest culprits. ​​the national road safety foundation reports that 30% of teen driving deaths occur between Memorial Day and Labor day. Many people try and compensate for the extra traffic during the busy weekend by speeding.

While teens are responsible for a large amount of traffic deaths, distracted driving is something that everyone struggles with according to Reich. This can be especially dangerous when traveling on the highway.

"If your going at highway speed and you look down to read a text which takes maybe three or four seconds, Reich said "During that time you’ve gone the length of a football field or maybe more."

However there are plenty of ways to ensure safety over Memorial Day weekend. 

"l just tell people to take a little extra time. slow down leave a little early, don't be distracted," Leer advised.

Distracted driving doesn’t risk the lives of the driver. Passengers of all ages account for about 62 percent of traffic fatalities nationwide.

"Passengers can play a very important role in traffic safety," Reich told ABC 17 News. "If your a passenger in a car that’s being driven by somebody who is showing unsafe behavior. Whether it’s speeding, driving aggressively, tailgating, you as a passenger have a right and should speak up."

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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