The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s New Year’s weekend counting period is underway and they are encouraging everyone to be safe.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Spokesperson Cpl. Juston Wheetley said statewide eight people died and 302 people were injured in 539 traffic crashes during the counting period last year.

“The crashes last year were during that brief snowstorm we had,” said Wheetley. “It was mostly off I-44 in Franklin County. This holiday is not nearly as bad as some of the other holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is a big one when people go out.”

“It’s typically not as bad as some of the other holiday weekends, but we do still see a lot of drinking and driving,” said Wheetley. “We just ask that if drinking is part of your plan or you anticipate it to be part of your plans to have a designated sober driver.”

Wheetley said this weekend is also supposed to be a bitterly cold weekend. They want to remind people if they do plan on getting out during the holiday and celebrating the New Year to be aware of that.

“Also they need to make sure the vehicle has plenty of gas in it and they have a cell phone charger, along with other essentials in case they find themselves stranded,” said Wheetley. “Warm blankets, non-perishables, water and those types of things.”

Wheetley suggests letting others know where you are traveling and what time you should arrive.

“It will help in case you don’t arrive and help aid others into knowing your route, so we can get to you quicker,” said Wheetley. “Because of the cold weather, if you do find yourself stranded, hypothermia can set in quickly if you aren’t warm.”

Wheetley added while alcohol may seem to warm them up, people will get out thinking they are warmer than what they are and freeze.

“We don’t want anyone to be out in an intoxicated condition and freeze to death,” said Wheetley. “The highway patrol will have troopers out looking for dangerous driving behaviors, impaired drivers and those in need.”

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or