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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: The Missouri Highway Patrol recommends buckling up to avoid injury in traffic accidents.

In 2020, the Missouri Highway Patrol investigated six traffic fatalities in Callaway County.

Across the state, 976 died — an increase from 881 in 2019 and 921 in 2018, according to MSHP fatality statistics.

Similarly, crashes and fatalities over the New Year's Holiday weekend were also up. According to a Monday news release, there were 458 crashes between Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, including 97 injuries and four fatalities statewide.

Figures fluctuate each year, but over the past two decades, fatalities have generally been decreasing — between 2002-06, there where more than 1,000 fatalities in Missouri each year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been periods of shutdown and many have respected government and public health guidance not to travel. With less cars on the road, one might expect less car accidents, but that hasn't been the case.

Five of the Callaway County fatal crashes investigated by the Highway Patrol occurred in the second half of the year.

Without research and traffic studies, it's difficult to explain why fatalities might be up.

"I think a lot of people were surprised," Highway Patrol Troop F Cpl. Kyle Green said. "Normally, you'd think with less cars out there, you'd expect less fatalities."

Green said troopers have noticed unsafe driving practices such as speeding.

"Please be a safe, courteous driver," Highway Patrol superintendent Col. Eric T. Olson said in a December news release. "Obey all traffic laws, drive sober and pay attention when you're driving."

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