Following the deadliest year for traffic accidents in more than a decade, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is introducing new policies to decrease the number of traffic fatalities. Troop F, which covers most of Mid-Missouri, implemented a traffic stop goal that skirts around the definition of a quota KRCG 13 found in an investigation.
"Not only are we increasing our enforcement activity, but we're trying to increase our visibility all the way around," Captain John Hotz, the director of public information for the Highway Patrol, said.
An estimated 1,012 drivers were killed in traffic accidents in 2021, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. That's a nearly 30% increase in a decade and the first time since 2006 that traffic fatalities have surpassed 1,000 deaths.
Under Missouri's Sunshine Law, KRCG 13 obtained each troop's annual "Goals and Objectives" documents for 2022, which detail problem areas the Highway Patrol recognizes and how each troop wants to address them.
"We've looked at the stats, we understand what's taking place," Captain Hotz said. "I think the general public expects us to step up our game."
According to Troop F's Goals and Objectives document, the division spelled out of its goals explicitly: "an enforcement stop goal of 43,500 for 2022," according to the records, a 20.83% increase from 2021.
Though that goal only specifically pertains to Troop F, Captain Hotz, who represents the entire Highway Patrol, defended the policy.
"Protection is safeguarding life and property," he explained. "How do we do that? One of our biggest roles in that is traffic safety."
Quotas are illegal under Highway Patrol policy, but Captain Hotz said this traffic enforcement goal is not a quota because an officer does not have to give a ticket each time they pull someone over.