In May 2023, the dense suburban neighborhood of Hamilton Heights in St. Louis witnessed a fatal crash between three vehicles. The crash involved a Chevrolet Impala that hit a GMC Sierra pickup truck, the impact of which caused the truck to collide with a Tesla S.
This unfortunate accident left behind one casualty (the Impala driver) and seriously injured several others. If that wasn’t bad enough, 2022 marked the 20th year for St. Louis, with the highest number of traffic accidents. The city, in particular, and Missouri, in general, have a grim reputation in terms of road safety.
The same holds true for commercial vehicles, given that St. Louis is a major logistics hub when compared to other Midwestern cities. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), Missouri saw a total of 15,005 commercial truck accidents in 2022 alone. These accidents led to 119 casualties and injured hundreds.
This is just an overview. In this article, we delve into an in-depth study of the road safety conditions in St. Louis, Missouri.
The High Cost of a Robust Infrastructure
St. Louis boasts a well-connected highway system, improving accessibility to key locations in every direction. The city consists of four interstates – the I-70, I-64, I-55, and I-44. Also, there are boulevards that run within the city itself.
As for the interstates, they connect major distribution centers, warehouses, and ports on either side of the Mississippi River. Important cities surrounding St. Louis, such as Kansas City, Memphis, and Chicago, are less than a five-hour drive away.
Does this robust road infrastructure come at a high price? It seems so. Since major interstates run in all four directions of the city, the possibility of a fatal accident increases. The danger is not just with regards to cars but also large trucks and trailers.
Contributing to that are poor weather conditions in St. Louis. The city experiences hot, muggy summers and freezing cold winters. In general, the skies are cloudy for most part of the year. Mild snow or rainfall on freeways can reduce speed, visibility, and vehicle friction and impair driver discretion (especially if they are intoxicated or careless). Another factor that only aggravates the issue is the fact that St. Louis has the worst traffic among all the cities in Missouri.
The Most Dangerous Roads in St. Louis
Although accidents may happen just about anywhere, the following are the infamous hotspots in St. Louis:
North Grand Boulevard
This boulevard runs through the heart of St. Louis, which makes it congested throughout the day. Because this road runs along St. Louis University, a lot of its traffic includes young and reckless drivers. Also, there are several restaurants and bars located along this road, further contributing to the problem.
North Grand Boulevard is also the exchange point for many interstates. Since these exchanges haven’t been updated in a while, they are dangerous, especially at the intersection with Montgomery Street.
This boulevard is located to the north of Forest Park. Lindell Boulevard is infamous for pedestrian accidents, primarily because of multiple lanes (four in total). There are no separate lanes for two-wheelers or parking facilities along the park. This further increases the chances of vehicles colliding with each other at high speed.
Jefferson Ave at Interstate 44
The Interstate 44 in St. Louis is important from the viewpoint of East-West travel. As many as seven interchanges run between Interstate 44 and Jefferson Ave.
The road is further split by two more lanes. Drivers are prone to taking wrong turns out of confusion. Poor road design leads to numerous car and pedestrian accidents on I-44.
St. Louis’ Interstate 70 is perhaps the busiest highway. Most of its traffic commutes to and from the St. Louis international airport. Plus, this interstate is located just a mile away from the Mississippi River, so commercial vehicles also frequent its lanes.
Despite being such an important interstate, its lanes are not adequately marked, leaving drivers with little to no guidance on entry and exit. To make matters worse, this interstate lacks pedestrian crosswalks. No clear direction for both drivers and pedestrians makes this interstate vulnerable to accidents.
Most Common Causes of St. Louis Road Accidents
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety conducted a study on St. Louis road accidents. It was found that the most common cause was distracted driving. Cellphones were held responsible as 9 out of 10 cases involved a driver distracted by their cell phone. Other causes of St. Louis road accidents include:
- Multi-Tasking While Driving – People either talk on their phones or some are even found eating while driving. This leads to poor discretion on the roads.
- Defective Parts – Public roads of St. Louis are full of drivers who do not maintain their vehicles properly. This problem is particularly prevalent among commercial vehicle fleets, where profits are given more importance than people. Defective parts are commonly involved in trucking accidents, most of which are fatal. Victims or their families are eligible to file a lawsuit against the company with the help of a St. Louis trucking accident lawyer. This is helping improve logistics safety since all liable parties can be sued in a court of law.
- Drunk-Driving – According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 32 people lose their lives every day in the US due to alcohol-impaired crashes. In Missouri, drunk driving is a problem among young, reckless adults who party late through the night. The same is also seen among commercial truck drivers, especially during the winter months, who consume alcohol to keep themselves warm.
- Driver Fatigue – It is common for drivers to fall asleep or get drowsy behind the wheel. This is especially true among overworked commercial truck drivers. According to TorHoerman Law, driver fatigue is among the leading causes of road accidents involving commercial vehicles. This condition usually takes place when a driver goes nearly 20 hours without sleep, which is equivalent to having 0.08% alcohol in the blood (above the legal limit in the US).
- Speeding – Some drivers zip past other vehicles, even on busy streets. It is common among truck drivers who must adhere to rigid deadlines. Though traffic clears for large vehicles like trucks, this may not always be the case. Truck drivers are then forced to apply brakes, but it is difficult to stop a larger vehicle maneuvering at high speeds.
How is the Government Tackling the Problem?
The Missouri Department of Transportation and the St. Louis County Public Works Department are taking different initiatives to make the roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. They are as follows:
- The Show-Me-Zero highway safety plan is a strategic approach involving public education and public policies. The key emphasis areas of this project are undistracted driving (no phones), occupant safety (use of seatbelts), non-aggressive driving (speed limits), and unimpaired driving (no alcohol). The initiative pays close attention to pedestrian safety, teen drivers, and aged drivers.
- Officials are encouraging car-pooling and other ride-sharing services, especially when the driver may be intoxicated or fatigued.
- Trucking companies must allow their drivers to have adequate rest. They need to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 11-hour driving limits and other provisions.
- Since many accidents occur on highways with multiple lanes, the state government is working towards reducing the number of lanes wherever possible. For instance, Lindell Boulevard is being narrowed down from four to two lanes.
- All roads, especially important interstates, are required to have proper signage that reduces driver-pedestrian confusion.
The Key Takeaways
In 2022, St. Louis ranked number one in terms of the most dangerous US cities. This ranking was based on various factors, including a high crime rate, assaults, and road accidents. Such a ranking only exposes the loopholes still present in the current road safety plan.
As the government slowly enforces its initiatives to improve road safety for St. Louis citizens, you can also do your part. Stay off the roads if you’ll be consuming alcohol. Always keep your phone aside while driving and use it when you’re safely parked in the corner. Wear your seatbelt while driving and obey traffic laws and signage.
Maintain a good distance with truck drivers on their left, right, and behind (blind spots). In the case of trucking companies, they must run regular checks on their fleets and allow drivers ample rest. Finally, truck drivers should never cross speed limits, and stevedores should ensure the trucks are not over or under-loaded. The mission of making St. Louis’ roads safer is a unified one where everyone must play their part!