Although highway fatalities have dropped across the county by fairly large numbers, the drop has not been as large in southern Missouri in the nine county Troop G area that covers Oregon County.
Others counties included in the Troop G area are: Carter, Douglas, Howell, Ozark, reynolds, Shannon, Texas and Wright.
According to Sgt. Marty Elmore, information officer with Troop G of the Missouri Highway Patrol, already this year there have been 11 traffic deaths in Troop G. This compares to 18 at the same time last year.
In 2008, there were 48 deaths in Troop G; 2007, 49 deaths.
"In Oregon County the statistics for 2008 are not available but we do have a breakdown in the number of fatalities for 2006 and 2007. In 2006, there were five highway fatalities in Oregon County. In 2007 there were six highway fatalities in the county with two of them occurring in Thayer," Sgt. Elmore said.
During the same time period, January through April 5, statewide, so far this year there have been three highway fatalities across the state compared to four in 2008.
"In 2008, there was a total across the state of 961 highway fatalities, 2007, 992 highway fatalities; 2006, 1,096 highway fatalities," Elmore said.
Nationwide highway fatalities have dropped to their lowest levels since 1960.
Some strategist think the economy may have something to do with this huge decrease. Less money in the pockets of Americans means less driving with fewer accidents. As the economy plummeted last year, gas prices rose in some areas of the country to nearly $4 a gallon.
Besides drivers driving less, experts also noticed record high seat-belt use, tighter enforcement of drunk driving laws and the work of advocacy groups encouraging safe driving habits.
The government said last week preliminary figures show 37,313 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year. That's 9.1 percent lower than the year before, when 41,059 people died, and the fewest since 1961 when there were 36,285 deaths.
In the past, tough economic times have brought similar statistics in roadway deaths. Fatalities fell more than 16 percent from 1973 to 1974 as the nation dealt with an oil crisis and inflation. Highway deaths dropped barely 11 percent from 1981 to 1982 as President Ragan battled a recession.
Vehicle miles traveled in 2008 fell by about 3.6 percent to 2.92 trillion miles, indicating many people adjusted their driving habits as gas prices went up and down and the economy seemed troubled. The number of miles driven by motorists had risen steadily over the past three decades.
Sgt. Elmore said several states, including Missouri, have pushed for tougher seat belt laws. Some states have passed laws already that allow law enforcement officers to stop motorists whose sole offense is failure to wear a seat belt.
Sgt. Elmore said, at this moment, law makers in Jefferson City are deciding if Missouri is going to be one of those 27 states where this law is enforced. Presently, law enforcement officers in Missouri can only ticket non-seat belt wearers after they are stopped for another offense.
Many safety groups say it is unclear if the fatality numbers will continue to drop once the economy improves. If the projections hold, 2008 would be the first year since 1992 when traffic fatalities dipped below 40,000. Even with the decline, more than 100 people die on U.S. roads everyday.