Record low reported for Kansas highway deaths

Kansas set a new record low last year for highway deaths.

The state transportation department is reporting that Kansas had 384 highway deaths last year, the lowest number since the state started counting highway fatalities in 1947.

It beat the previous record low of 387 set in 1992, according to preliminary numbers compiled by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

“That number still represents too many families who are grieving over what may have been a preventable death,” KDOT Secretary Deb Miller said of the 384 highway fatalities last year.

“Even though we’ve increased our seat belt use to 77.3 percent, this number reflects that nearly one person out of every four is still not buckling up,” Miller said in her prepared statement.

Kansas’ numbers mirror what’s going on in Missouri and elsewhere across the country. Missouri recorded 941 highway fatalities last year, the lowest figure in 25 years.

The declines in deaths on Missouri and Kansas highways reflect a national trend, partly attributable to fewer miles being driven as gas prices rose last summer.

Federal highway safety officials estimated that traffic deaths dropped about 10 percent for the first 10 months of last year. Meanwhile, the number of miles driven dropped by 3.5 percent for the first nine months of the year.

In Missouri and Kansas, we drove about 4 percent less through October 2008.

KDOT attributes the decline in Kansas to recent laws improving child passenger safety, tougher drunk-driving penalties and a primary seat belt law for teens.