Car Crash Numbers Rise Yet Traffic Stops and Tickets Drop in STL
Posted on March 27th, 2023 by Zane Cagle
Drive in Greater St. Louis?
Does it seem like there are more fatal and serious traffic collisions in St. Louis? If you’ve poked your head into reality in the last month, you probably know about the most violent and deadly crashes . Maybe the topic has come up at your house or work. I always wonder if I’m too conscious of driving safety considering what we do for a living. I don’t think so. Like you, I mostly worry about my wife driving my kids to and from school daily. I also have a teen that may drive in another year. I worry about her safety regardless of how well I prepare her to drive. Just like me, you have loved ones and friends that also travel our highways and streets and worry about their degree of safety.
According to a St. Louis resident recently interviewed in the Post Dispatch, he said that he looks both ways even when he has a green light. He cited a recent fatal crash in his community at the intersection of Bates Street and Morganford that has made him even more aware. I can relate to that. I do not just assume others are going to observe a stop sign in my local neighborhood. Likewise, as I drive downtown St. Louis, I do always assume others will observe a red light. The inability to rely on other drivers to follow simple rule of the road creates havoc and chaos. It is part of social agreement that allows us to all share in the combined resource that is roadway infrastructure. Critical to our roadways simply functioning requires we follow the agreed upon rules.
Maybe you have perceived the roadways feel more risky or it seems we have had more fatalities.
We did get some numbers this month. There were 78 St. Louis traffic fatalities in 2022. It is the second highest number of fatal crashes in St. Louis in the last 20 years. The traffic fatalities peaked at 81 deaths in 2020 during the pandemic. Ironically, the amount of traffic in 2020 was reduced by about half–we all remember spending weeks at home in the spring of 2020. Yet, according to statistics across the United State, fatal crashes only increased in 2020 as fewer people were on the roadways and many of those crashes were due to excessive speeds.
Drivers Failing to Follow Rules of the Road Endanger Us All
Drivers failing to follow the rules of the road endanger us all. We all drive in traffic and we know that crashes have a cause if not several causes. Driver error is the number one cause of crashes. We often like to say “accidents happen” to make everyone feel better, but they do not “just happen”. It is common for insurance companies to repeat the myth that “accidents happen” so they can distract from cost and accountability.
Failure to yield at an intersection resulted in a 21 year-old driver hitting another vehicle which struck and pinned a pedestrian. This downtown crash occurred at the intersection of St. Charles and 11th Street in late February. This particular tragedy has garnered state and some national attention. In spite of the political conversations, the fact is that a 17 year-old girl has been permanently maimed and her only contribution to the risk was to walk on a sidewalk with her family and friends. The injuries that almost killed the Tennessee teenager occurred when a driver failed to yield. The simplest of errors can cause catastrophic injuries. This horrible incident occurred Saturday night, February 18 2023. From the initial charges, it appears a driver initiating the crash by failure to yield is also accused of traveling 20 miles over the speed limit. At that downtown intersection, one has to ponder why someone was traveling 20 miles per hour at that intersection and have a hard time fathoming how someone could be traveling 20 mph Over the speed limit
A week later, four teens were killed in a two-car crash at the intersection of Grand and Forest Park Avenue. The crash occurred around 2 a.m. according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. According to police, two vehicle collided. When the driver of a 2004 Chevrolet Impala got to the red light at the intersection, they drove into the northbound lanes to go around traffic, ran the light and slammed in to the Chevy Tahoe. The Tahoe containing eight people was knocked off the overpass and landed upside-down on Forest Park Avenue. Four of those occupants died at the scene. Four others were hospitalized in critical condition. The driver of the Impala fled the scene. The driver of the Impala later turned himself into the local police.
When drivers simply disregard stop signs/signals or travel at excessive speeds, people get hurt or killed. Rightly so, when someone grossly disregards rules of the roadway and injure people, we become indignant and angry. As we represent those people who have been seriously injured by someone who simply failed to follow the rules of the road, we see the permanent damage caused by our clients that live far longer than a news article.
Patrolling Changes-Combined Issues
In 2021, St. Louis police made 45,154 traffic stops compared to about 85,622 in 2009. Is that because drivers are behaving better in recent years compared to 2009? If you live and drive here, you know this is not logical. Why are traffic stops reduced by what seems fifty percent? According to a St. Louis police spokesman, the officers were “stretched” due to civil unrest since 2014. Former Chief Hayden said in 2018 that “our patrol measures shifted to focus on violent crime”. Cities across the country pivoted to focus more on violent crime about a decade ago for some obvious reasons. Now, we hear our communities asking and wanting some more patrol with these higher number of serous injury and fatal crashes.
According to Richard Rosenfeld, criminology professor at UMSL, “As a general rule, the public rightly wants to see laws on the books enforced, because if they are not enforced, that generates the perception that you can commit crime with impunity. Speeding and running lights are currently viewed by the public as serious offenses, especially in a place like St. Louis were we’ve seen an uptick in traffic fatalities and crashes”
A shortage of officers in the greater metro area is also a factor. The St. Louis police department indicated they focus their traffic enforcement on locations with the most crashes and note that its staffing has fallen in recent years. In June there were 758 officers and 87 open officer positions. In 2011, there were about 920 officers. Likewise, the Missouri Sate Highway Patrol hasn’t really assisted with traffic supervision on the interstates that run through St Louis. Last year, state troopers issued just 35 speeding tickets compared to 432 in 2021.
Another problem we are having in the greater St. Louis area is the fact that too many drivers decide just to not pull over for traffic stops. The police have been criticized for pursuing fleeing drivers. Obviously, it drivers opt to flee and fail to simply pull over, it creates a dangerous condition. Both of those issues do not increase the confidence of St. Louis citizens of the safety on our streets. A Wildwood representative recently introduced a bill increasing penalties for fleeing from police
Serious Injuries Are Life-Changing
Yes, we all read the articles and see the news about these horrific crashes. We might even think about those people so horrifically injured or contribute to a fundraiser. After a few weeks though, it fades from your memory. We do some of this unconsciously because there is new, awful information to take in daily but we also do it for a reason of comfort. We cannot think about these horrible, tragic crashes or it may begin to impact your ability to get into a vehicle, ride in a vehicle or drive a vehicle. At our firm, we actually see the long term consequence daily. It is daily and lasts for years for each of these people. In addition to reading the stories, you may even know one of these people so egregiously injured or killed. We shutter to think about it. But, honestly, only that injured person and their family has to live with the day-to-day challenges. Months and years after these serious injuries, every victim’s life is forever changed. At our firm, our attorneys do not pretend to know exactly how each of our clients feel. We do spend a lot of time learning their story and feel incredibly honored when they chose us to share the story.
Serious Injuries Are More than Medical Bills
A medical bill cannot accurately represent the impact of a serious injury. However, if you are making a claim with an insurance company after a serious car crash, the adjuster will absolutely try to limit your injury based on a medical bill. Do tell me how a medical bill for an amputation in any way accurately represents the loss of a limb? And, how is one’s body ever really the same after a major orthopedic surgery? If you are hurt, do not even engage with the auto insurance adjuster.
If you are hurt, you are worth more than a cost-risk analysis. You will need a plan from the beginning. The idea that you need to hire an attorney in the beginning can be overwhelming. Just as you need expert medical help, you now need expert legal help.