MoDOT holds town hall in Palmyra with goal of zero traffic fatalities


Jon Nelson, assistant highway safety and traffic engineer, discusses Show-Me Zero initiative at the town hall meeting in Palmyra on Wednesday. Photo by Megan Duncan

PALMYRA, Mo. — Missouri Department of Transportation officials are reaching for a big goal — the number zero.

The initiative is “Show-Me Zero” and MoDot hopes that will one day be the number of traffic crash fatalities in Missouri. 

On Wednesday evening, MoDot officials and local citizens gathered at the Sesquicentennial Building in Palmyra, Mo. for a town hall meeting. During the meeting community members were presented with traffic statistics and various MoDot programs they can become involved in to promote safe driving.

“No matter how perfect the road is, if someone is driving who is impaired, speeding, or not wearing their seat belt, odds are they are going to end up in a traffic crash,” Scott Jones, highway safety program administrator, said.

Jones said fatalities are increasing. 

In 2018 MoDot reported a total of seven traffic crash fatalities for the counties of Marion, Ralls and Monroe. In 2019 and 2020, the total fatalities for those counties rose to 13. In 2021 and 2022, the fallacies for those counties dropped slightly to 10.

So far in 2023, there have been eight fatalities in those counties. 

Overall in Missouri, the number of fatalities rose from 921 in 2018 to 1,057 last year. There have so far been 394 traffic crash fatalities in 2023.

Contributing to the fatalities is the number of drivers and passengers who are not wearing seat belts.

On June 23, MoDot reported that out of the 394 traffic crash fatalities in 2023, 64 percent were not wearing seat belts.

Palmyra Police Chief Eddie Bogue believes having the ability to enforce the seat belt law could help bring that percentage down.

Bogue is a member of the Northeast Coalition for Roadway Safety.

At the town hall meeting, he commented on the coalition’s attempt to pass legislation to have a primary seat belt law passed in Missouri, which would allow police officers to make traffic stops solely for a failure to wear seat belts. 

In Missouri, seat belts are currently a secondary violation for anyone over the age of 18, which means officers can only issue a seat belt ticket to vehicles stopped for a primary offense such as speeding. 

According to Bogue, the coalition spent several million dollars over time attempting to pass legislation to make seat belt a primary offense in Missouri, but the state continues to reject it.

Bogue has also approached the Palmyra City Council on four different occasions to enforce the primary seat belt as a city ordinance to no avail. Currently 55 Missouri cities have primary seat belt law ordinances.

“It would make people buckle-up if they had that knowledge that they could get stopped and receive a citation,” Bogue said. “If they aren’t going to get stopped, they aren’t going to do it.”

Thirty-four states, including Illinois, have the primary seat belt law. The state of Illinois “Click-it or Ticket” program reports a 95 percent compliance in seat belt use.

Bogue was a 20-year veteran of the Hannibal Police Department before he was named the Palmyra Police Chief in 2007. In his experience, seat belts play an important part of surviving a car accident, especially in the case of a rollover.

“It is proven statistically that nine times out of ten, you are probably going to die if you don’t have a seat belt on during a rollover crash,” he said. “If the seat belt isn’t holding you in then you are going to get ejected. It’s pretty scary.”

While people often believe they don’t need seat belts due to airbags, Bogue said many cars are engineered for all of its safety features to work together.

“The cars are engineered to work together with everything, the seat belt, air bag and everything else. If you have your seat belt on, you are in a safe cockpit a lot of times. So your car can rollover, flip and do everything and you are safe in that car.”

Another initiative for MoDot’s Show-Me Zero campaign includes the Safe Rider program for first-grade to fifth-grade children to learn safety as a car passenger, a bike rider or pedestrian.

MoDot also combats distracted driving with the Buckle-up Phone’s Down campaign, which has been observed in local high schools such as Palmyra, Hannibal and Mark Twain High School in Center.

For more information on MoDot programs, visit

Jon Nelson, assistant state highway safety and traffic engineer for MoDot, knows that zero traffic crash fatalities seems an aggressive goal, but he believes it is possible. 

He shared that every year Missourians drive about 80 billion vehicle miles. There are 6 million people in the state, and in 2022 there were a reported 1,057 fatalities.

“There are billions and billions of miles being driven by millions of people in our state that never have a traffic crash. That tells me that zero is feasible if everyone would do the responsible thing,” Nelson said.

“For you and your family, what is an acceptable goal for traffic crash fatalities? Is it one? Two? Or is it zero? I am going to guess that most of you would say zero,” he added. 

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