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Heartland roads not making the grade

Missouri and Iowa don't make the grade when it comes to roadway safety. (KTVO:Riley Fannon)

An estimated 40,200 people died on U.S. roadways last year. The traffic death rate had dropped in the past few decades, but now the country is in the middle of its deadliest spike in 50 years.

These deaths are largely attributed to distracted driving, speeding and impaired driving. They are all preventable. This troubling trend is hitting the Heartland particularly hard.

Each year the National Safety Council releases a State of Safety report. It ranks and grades each state as well as the District of Columbia. The report reviews roadway, home/community and workplace safety practices. The most recent report was issued last June. It ranks Iowa 39th overall and 37th in roadway safety, receiving a D in both categories. Missouri was worse off as the report ranked the state dead last overall and 49th in roadway safety. Missouri is also one of nine states that received an F in roadway safety.

“I know that myself and several legislators are very concerned. Fatality rates in the state of Missouri have been increasing,” said Missouri Rep. Nate Walker.

Out of the eight safety issues in the roadway category, only two were deemed on track or developing in Missouri. Compared to Iowa, which had four of the safety issues falling within the on track or developing indicator. How do the issues with Missouri’s failing issues get fixed?

“We need Gov. Greitens to step forward, we need the leadership of the Missouri General Assembly to step forward and we need to work with MoDoT and the safety groups throughout the state to promote getting some legislation," said Walker

Legislation can help change the rules of the road. Walker says there’s another element.

“It’s a holistic approach that the general assembly could do a lot of things but public education is really key. No matter what the law is if people don’t like it or don’t want to comply it is not going to improve," said Walker

It will be a long process to turn the current trends around in Missouri, but according to Walker addressing the issue, identifying the problems and raising awareness are steps in the right direction.

For more on the State of Safety, click here.

For the full Missouri State of Safety report, click here.

For the full Iowa State of Safety report, click here.

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