In general, traffic-related fatalities have been decreasing over the past seven years. An uptick of such deaths in the first few months of this year has officials on their toes going into the Memorial Day weekend.

While the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported a decrease in fatal automobile accidents in the past seven years, a nine percent increase in fatalities statewide so far this year has captured troopers’ attention heading into the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

In 2006, 1,257 people died in traffic crashes, but 757 people died in traffic crashes in 2013 statewide, according to the Highway Patrol. Troopers have seen a slight increase in roadway fatalities this year.

“We’ve enjoyed for the past seven years, with the exception of 2012, where we saw a slight increase, a continual decrease since 2005,” said Sgt. Jacob Angle with the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop H. “Through enforcement and education, the Highway Patrol feels we played a part in that.

"But we are experiencing a nine percent increase through this year, in comparison to this point last year.”

In the region Troop H that encompasses Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, and Worth counties, troopers have worked six fatalities so far this year. Last year, troopers had worked 10 fatalities at this point, Mr. Angle said.

“It is a decrease in Troop H ... and those are the numbers we like to see,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a fatality, so it is hard to pinpoint one. But it is always a constant effort for enforcement and education, because those are two things we can control.”

In Troop H, two individuals died from vehicle accidents in Buchanan County and two others in Nodaway County since the beginning of this year. A 46-year-old man died in a vehicle accident in Grundy County in March and a 59-year-old woman died in a vehicle accident in Holt Count in January.

Statewide, the Highway Patrol has worked 232 total fatalities as of May 13 of this year, in comparison to 216 to date last year.

Mr. Angle said while 500 fewer fatalities between 2006 and 2013 is a better statistic for the state, the reality of the majority of all automobile accidents is contributed to human error. Distracted driving, intoxication, speed, and not wearing proper vehicle restraints are all issues drivers can control themselves, especially during the summer season.

“During our major holiday periods, there is always going to be more traffic, more cars and drivers out there, so that is when we really put a push for enforcement out there,” Mr. Angle said, adding that troopers will execute the statewide 20-Mile Trooper project during the peak travel periods between May 23 and 26.

“While we will out there in a big force for Memorial Day, we want people to be vigilant 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by not being distracted while you drive, wearing your seat belt and obeying all traffic laws.”

The Highway Patrol encourages all motorists to make an effort to decrease the number of all motor vehicle accidents by reporting suspected hazardous motorists by contacting the Missouri State Highway Patrol toll-free 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on cellular devices.

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at kristin.hoppa@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.