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These are the deadliest highways in Kansas and Missouri, study finds

Series of crashes on sharp I-70 curve in KCK captured on camera

Leo Eilts, who lives near I-70, says the curve is dangerous. But a KDOT spokesperson says it is safe if taken at posted speeds. And if KDOT had more funding, a reconstruction project could be underway.
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Leo Eilts, who lives near I-70, says the curve is dangerous. But a KDOT spokesperson says it is safe if taken at posted speeds. And if KDOT had more funding, a reconstruction project could be underway.

Last year was the deadliest on American roads in almost a decade, with an estimated 40,000 fatalities.

A recent study identified the most dangerous highway in each state, based on fatality rates. In Missouri, that was U.S. 63, a north-south route that passes through Columbia and Jefferson City. Interstate 70 is the deadliest in Kansas, the study found.

Geotab, a vehicle tracking company, conducted the study. The company pulled stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration, and adjusted the data for average daily traffic counts. It found Missouri’s most dangerous highway has a fatal crash rate of 0.7 per million vehicles on the road. Kansas’ I-70 has a fatality rate of 0.5. The data analyzed span the last 10 years.

Missouri’s deadliest highway is safer than the deadliest highways of 22 other states. Kansas’ deadliest is safer than those in 34 other states. Geotab reported 155 fatalities on Kansas’ I-70 and 179 fatalities on Missouri’s U.S. 63.

“Everybody is typically arriving at their destination safely,” said Ray Shank, a traffic safety engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, of travelers on U.S. 63. But, “as long as one person doesn’t arrive safely, there’s always something more we can do.”

In an effort to improve safety on the highway, Shank said MoDOT is installing rumble strips on each shoulder of the roadway and guard cable in the median. Rumble strips are grooves in the roadway that, when driven on, create a rumbling in a vehicle to alert drivers that they’re drifting. Shank said the strips have been installed on about 80 percent of U.S. 63.

rumble strips
Rumble strips and guard cable serve to improve safety on U.S. 63 in Missouri, a MoDOT spokesperson said. Google Maps

At the Kansas Department of Transportation, spokesperson Brianna Landon released a statement on the study.

“Traveler safety is a high priority for KDOT, and the agency uses a variety of strategies to help reduce the potential for fatal and serious injury crashes. This includes promoting educational campaigns such as Click it or Ticket, supporting law enforcement efforts, and engineering highway projects to make them safe for travelers. KDOT will continue its efforts to educate the public and encourage safe driving practices.”

A curve on I-70 in Kansas City, Kan., at the Lewis and Clark Viaduct Bridge came under scrutiny when a local man, Leo Eilts, captured video of a series of crashes, including a fatal motorcycle crash last month. Eilts calls the area “suicide curve.”

From 2007 to 2015, there were 38 injury crashes and 96 crashes causing property damage at the curve, according to KDOT. However, that data only includes crashes that caused damage to KDOT property.

Another motorcyclist died in 2012 on the curve.

A reconstruction project that would have taken place in phases and included the replacement of the curve has been delayed due to a lack of funding.

Eilts said he wasn’t surprised to learn I-70 is the most dangerous highway in Kansas.

“KDOT is hamstrung by a lack of funds,” Eilts said. “What’s wrong with KDOT is nothing that money couldn’t fix.”

Rhode Island (Interstate 95) and New Hampshire (Interstate 93) shared the lowest fatality rate of 0.1 per million vehicles. Florida’s U.S. 1 was the most dangerous in the country, with a fatality rate of 2.8 per million vehicles.

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