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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: The Missouri Department of Transportation urges caution on the roads this Fourth of July.

Holiday weekends are often among the deadliest times to hit the roads.

As July 4 approaches, the Missouri Department of Transportation urges caution and safe driving.

Last year, 15 people died in traffic crashes in Missouri over the holiday. Another 58 were seriously injured.

"There's definitely more people on the roads — that's something we see every single year," Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F Sgt. Scott White said.

In addition to having more people driving, there is often an increase in substance-impaired driving during holidays.

"Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has serious consequences," MoDOT safety and traffic engineer Nicole Hood said in a news release. "In 2019, law enforcement made 93 substance-impaired driving related arrests during the Fourth of July impaired driving campaign across the state."

When someone is involved in impaired driving, they risk harming themselves or others, facing jail time, the loss of their driver's license, higher insurance rates and other costs related to legal action, such as lost time at work and court fees.

Highway Patrol Troop F covers 13 counties in Central Missouri, including Callaway, Cole and Boone counties.

This year, the region has seen a 2 percent increase in vehicle fatalities.

In April, the Highway Patrol conducted a 20-day traffic study on U.S. 63 between Columbia and Jefferson City. The same study was conducted last year.

The study observed 17,000 less cars this year than the year previous.

"But we also saw higher speeds," White said. "We're still seeing those higher speeds."

A preliminary report from the National Safety Council showed that while Americans drove less in March, fatality rates increased. While it is hard to explain why this is the case, some have theorized that people are more likely to make reckless choices when the roads appear emptier.

Through Monday, law enforcement will be out with increased efforts to prevent impaired drivers.

Recommendations for a safe drive this July 4:

  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Designate a sober driver or find an alternative way home if you are impaired.
  • Always wear a seat belt — 71 percent of Missouri traffic fatalities in 2020 so far did not wear a seat belt.
  • Don't text or use your phone while driving.
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