SIKESTON -- Labor Day is known as the unofficial end to summer, leaving many people to take the one final trip to visit friends or family, a theme park, a lake or a sporting event. While the holiday weekend is enjoyed by most, it can quickly turn to tragedy.
Of the six major holidays, the Labor Day holiday ranked second for fatalities and alcohol-related highway deaths over the past five years. Last year, 20 people were killed and 645 persons were injured in 1,267 traffic crashes occurring during the Labor Day holiday counting period statewide. That is one person killed or injured every seven minutes. Over the past five years (1996-2000), 79 persons were killed and 3,503 injured in Labor Day holiday crashes.
In an effort to see that fewer traffic accidents occur, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is scheduling additional officers to patrol area highways. The period will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and end at 11:50 p.m. on Monday.
"The worst part of a trooper's job is having to knock on someone's front door to inform them a member of their family has died in a traffic crash," said Col. Roger D. Stottlemyre, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in a released statement. "Help 'Stop the Knock'. Buckle up, obey Missouri's traffic laws, and don't drink and drive during this Labor Day holiday."
Capt. Joe Sebourn of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety said most of the traffic accidents over the holiday take place on busy highways, however, that is no reason to let your guard down inside the city limits.
"Be sure to buckle up and don't drink and drive," Sebourn said.
In 1999 (latest available figures), 47 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Labor Day weekend involved an intoxicated or alcohol-impaired driver or non-motorist.
This year, the National Safety Council estimates that 474 people may die and 25,100 people may suffer nonfatal disabling injuries in motor vehicle crashes over the 3-1/4 day Labor Day weekend. The lives of an additional 345 people involved in crashes, however, will be saved because they will be wearing their seat belts.
Sebourn also warns not to make time a factor.
"Make sure to give extra time to get where you are going, allowing time for unexpected things," Sebourn said. "Don't pinpoint a time to be someplace."
Another thing to check before leaving over Labor Day weekend is the vehicle you will be taking the trip in.
"Make sure your car has been serviced and is well-maintained," Sebourn said. "Just use good driving common sense."
Travelers needing assistance, reporting a drunk or careless driver, illegal activity on the highways, or a stalled motorist can call the Patrol's Emergency Hotline at 1-800-525-5555 or, on a cellular phone, dial *55. To receive the latest road conditions for major Missouri highways, motorists may call the Patrol's Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-222-6400 or (573) 526-8828.