Drive attentively or face prosecution
August 25, 2006

Governor's Column
by Gov. Matt Blunt

Protecting Lives on Missouri's Highways

We all have an obligation to look out for the safety of the men and women who work to keep our roads and bridges safe for our travel. To help improve safe passage across our state I signed Senate Bill 872 into law this year to penalize errant drivers who disregard the safety of others and to provide additional tools for law enforcement and local prosecutors to hold them accountable for their actions.

In 2005, 15 motorists died and 940 were injured in work-zone crashes. Between 2000 and 2004, 104 motorists were killed and 5,327 motorists were injured in Missouri work zones, and over the past five years, seven Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) highway employees have been killed and 239 injured in work zones. The leading causes of work zone crashes are inattention, speeding and following too close to other vehicles.

Senate Bill 872 creates the crime of endangering a highway worker. There have been too many occasions when motorists who violate our traffic laws injure or kill a highway worker, but despite their reckless behavior are only charged with the minor traffic violation of careless and imprudent driving. It also gives prosecutors a tool to punish those whose carelessness and disregard for the law injures or kills highway workers.

The new legislation also strengthens Missouri's Failure to Yield Law or "Clutch's Law". Nearly 10,000 people per year are injured or killed in failure to yield accidents and takes a step forward by including provisions allowing the suspension of driving privileges for those at fault in failure to yield accidents that result in injury or death.

When behind the wheel of a vehicle, there is no excuse for recklessness that risks the lives of those traveling and those who work everyday to make our roads safer. It is imperative that all Missourians pay attention when approaching work zones and emergency vehicles on our highways. Now state law provides even more deterrents for reckless and dangerous driving designed to protect highway workers' and travelers' safety.

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