A safety audit prompted state officials to recommend repairs to several stretches of highway in Callaway County.
The Missouri Department of Transportation released a report Tuesday morning highlighting a statistical study of five years of crash data for U.S. Route 54 from Mexico to Camdenton. The 100-mile stretch of road studied includes roughly 40 miles within Callaway County.
David Silvester, a district engineer with MoDOT, said the study was prompted by a series of wrong-way driving incidents, some of which include fatalities.
"Despite all of the traffic tools we put in place, we still have people who don't exercise good judgment when they get behind the wheel," he said in a statement Tuesday. "We want to remind drivers that they, too, must take responsibility to ensure safety on our highways."
Silvester said nine of the 10 wrong-way crashes in the past five years involved a driver who was impaired by physical conditions or by driving while intoxicated. The 10 crashes resulted in a total of 11 fatalities.
To prevent future incidents of wrong-way drivers, state officials plan on installing more signage to keep motorists headed in the right direction.
In addition to wrong-way drivers, curves on Route 54 have also been a cause of many accidents.
According to the report, there were 410 crashes on curves in the five years. The crash data showed the following causes of the accidents: Driving too fast for conditions; improper lane use; impaired driving; over correction; driver fatigue and distracted driving.
One of the curves on Route 54 already received safety upgrades earlier this year. North of Kingdom City near North Callaway High School, Route 54 was resurfaced with high friction material, according to Kingdom City City Manager Kurt Warfield.
"It was a necessary improvement," he said. "The high friction paving is something we requested from MoDOT a few years ago because of how many accidents we had. Our main concern was the number of school buses we have transporting kids to school on that curve. We wanted to make sure it was safer for them."
The high friction surface treatment has been used in other parts of the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In Kentucky, roadways paved with the gripping surface showed a 78 percent reduction in crashes. The material, which is also manufactured to resist normal wear and tear, has a lifespan of anywhere between seven and 12 years.
MoDOT officials specified seven curves on the 100-mile stretch of road that need to be resurfaced. In addition to the completed work in Kingdom City, three other curves in Callaway County will receive special high-friction surfaces: East of Summit Drive in Holts Summit, the Business 54 bridge north of Fulton and west of the Callaway County-Audrain County border.
"Safety is always a main concern of ours," said Warfield. "We want to make sure travelers get in and out of town safely."
The study also revealed 69 cross-median crashes occurred during the five-year window. To avoid future cross median crashes, officials suggested median guard cables be installed on Route 54 between Jefferson City and Kingdom City.
Rick Hess, city administrator of Holts Summit, said the guard cables are welcome news to city officials.
"I think that's fantastic," he said. "There have been several fatalities on the curve south of town where cars have crossed the median. I think these cables are probably worth their weight in gold."
Silvester said state officials are trying to find the most effective way to make the needed improvements on the highway.
"Based on the audit findings, we believe a combination of traffic solutions can be implemented to enhance safety along the Route 54 corridor in Mid-Missouri," he said. "We now are looking at the fastest and most cost-effective way to do as much of the work as our limited resources will allow."
However, the improvements will take time to materialize, according to Silvester.
"We still need to identify funding for this project, as well as determine if some of the work can be factored in with other projects," he added. "We then will have to design, bid and build the project or projects, all of which takes time."
More information about the audit report can be found on MoDOT's website at www.modot.org/central.