Kansas City’s Streets Were Deadlier Than Ever in 2023

Kansas City’s Streets Were Deadlier Than Ever in 2023Every year, Kansas City, MO sees more and more accidents on its highways and roadways. Unfortunately, 2023 was no different and actually broke records for having the highest number of fatalities in almost 30 years.

According to National Public Radio (NPR) in Kansas City, car crash fatalities decreased around the United States, but they “took the life of someone in Kansas City almost twice a week in 2023.” Traffic-related deaths around the entire country fell by about three percent but still rose by about 13 percent in Kansas City.

Here is what their data shows:

[The] pandemic brought a 16-year high [in traffic fatalities] in 2021 — about 42,915 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The following year was almost as bad: there were only 120 fewer deaths in 2022.

The 2021 jump in roadway deaths was even sharper in Kansas City, where 103 people died on streets and highways that year. That was the highest number in at least three decades (and more than double the number killed in 2014).

In 2022 Kansas City’s total dropped to 90, but then, last year, wrecks killed 102 people in the city. During a year when traffic fatalities eased about 3% nationwide, they jumped 13% in Kansas City.

What is causing this spike in deadly accidents in Kansas City?

The most likely cause, per NPR, is the bad habits drivers picked up during the pandemic. Kansas City Police Sergeant Johnathan Rivers said drivers are speeding more than ever, and those speeds are excessive. Drunk and drugged driving is also to blame, as is people not wearing their seatbelts.

But Kansas City has another issue: its police force is smaller than it’s been in years. Since 2020, police departments around the country have seen far more officers leave than apply. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, the percentage of resignations by officers “jumped by more than 35 percent in 2021 and another 9 percent in 2022. There were 47 percent more resignations in 2022 than in 2019.” Hiring percentages also dipped between 2019 and 2021, though there was an increase in hiring in 2022. All of this translates to forces being smaller than they need to be in order to help keep roadways safe. “People feel that they can drive any way they want to since they don’t see officers on the highway as much as they used to,” Sgt. Rivers said.

It’s not just drivers and passengers who should be worried. The Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Russ Martin, is especially concerned with pedestrian deaths. Specifically, Martin states that “we’ve been in the midst of a pedestrian safety crisis.” In 2023, America experienced its highest number of pedestrian fatalities since the early 1980s, which was over 40 years ago. He also mentions that in the last decade, our country has seen at least an 80 percent increase in deaths among pedestrians. Unfortunately, more than 7,500 pedestrians across America lost their lives last year alone.

How Kansas City can protect its most vulnerable road users

There are several different potential options when it comes to keeping pedestrians safe, such as:

  • Adding more sidewalks: KC residents have been pushing for better infrastructure since 2020, and specifically for more sidewalks since 2017. Finally completing those projects would be a great start. Adding more protected bike lanes would also help, as the bollards provide an added lawyer of protection to cyclists and pedestrians alike.
  • Adding more crosswalks: The S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration points out that “high-visibility crosswalks can reduce pedestrian injury crashes up to 40%.”
  • Installing/updating traffic signals and signs near crosswalks and intersections: Adding turning signals/delayed green lights at intersections without them may help reduce the number of accidents between cars as well as collisions with pedestrians. For additional safety, countdown timers are also recommended, which inform pedestrians how long they have to cross before the traffic light changes and the vehicles have the right of way again.
  • Reducing speeds in high-traffic corridors: Back in 2019, the Mid-America Regional Council Planning Sustainable Places awarded money for the 63rd Street corridor project. Part of that project involved a public survey, and overwhelmingly, folks asked for reduced speeds and traffic calming measures.
  • Adding more lights to increase visibility: Another great way to keep pedestrians safe is to increase visibility by adding more lights and creating more areas and spaces that are well-lit. This will not only benefit pedestrians by giving them more lighting, but it can also help ensure that motorists can see any pedestrians who are walking or standing near the roadways.
  • Installing signs that pedestrians and drivers can easily see and read: It can be very difficult for pedestrians and drivers to read certain traffic signs. This may be because of where the signs have been placed, or it can be because the signs are outdated. Over time, signs experience normal wear and tear, as well as damage from the sun. In addition, older signs were made of different material, causing drivers and pedestrians to have trouble seeing and reading them.

If you were recently involved in a pedestrian accident, Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys is ready to help. One of our proudest achievements so far is earning the title of “Kansas City’s Favorite Law Firm,” which is a title that we strive to uphold through extreme client delight every single day. To schedule a free consultation with a Kansas City injury lawyer who cares about you and your case, please call us or submit our contact form today. We have additional appointment-only offices in Lee’s Summit, Parkville and St. Joseph (MO); Olathe, Kansas City, and Overland Park (KS).