SIKESTON - Labor Day weekend is traditionally the last chance for some summer fun. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is asking that a little responsibility be mixed in with the fun this year.
"Labor Day is one of the mass major summer holidays of the year," said Lt. Jim McNiell of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop E in Sikeston. "The weather is still nice and people are traveling to the lake or park, but the big problem is the drinking driver."
McNiell added some people are not letting the non-drinker drive, therefore increasing the chances of an accident. Others are inattentive to driving. Inattention is probably the number one cause of accidents, he added.
To help ensure everyone's safety, offer assistance and enforce Missouri's traffic laws, the Highway Patrol will schedule additional officers to patrol the roadways. The Labor Day counting period will begin at 6 p.m. today and end at 11:59 p.m. on Monday. The Patrol, along with local law enforcement, will participate in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort).
"We require all troopers to work part of the holiday," McNiell said. "More officers will be visible. People need to obey the laws and where the system is."
The Patrol reminds motorists to expect a change in traffic patterns during the Labor Day weekend.
Last year, 9 people were killed and 593 persons were injured in 1,205 traffic crashes occurring during the Labor Day holiday counting period.
That is one person killed or injured every 7.8 minutes. Over the past five years (1997-2001), 74 persons were killed and 3,402 were injured in Labor Day holiday crashes.
One of those deaths last year occurred in Troop E, which is made up of 13 counties in Southeast Missouri including Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard. The death happened in Madison County.
McNiell said he can't stress enough for people to wear their seatbelts. Recently, many drivers and passengers have been partially or fully ejected from their vehicles, he said. The results are not very favorable, and it's a terrible year when people don't wear their seatbelts, he added. McNiell cautioned motorists to wear their seatbelts because if they're not, they're going to get a ticket.
"Let's make this holiday weekend safe," said Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre, superintendent of the Patrol. "I urge drivers to buckle up, obey Missouri's traffic laws, and drive sober. 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. Help 'Stop the Knock'."
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, McNiell encouraged. 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.