Did you know that the year end traffic fatality count for Kentucky in 2013 was one of the lowest in recent history? Although 639 people lost their lives on our roadways last year, it was the fewest number of deaths our state has experienced since 1947. This reduction is even more amazing when you look at the increased number of vehicles on our roadways and the number of miles driven each year. Amazingly, over twenty-one billion vehicle miles were driven through the Commonwealth last year. There are numerous reasons for the drastic reduction in traffic deaths in Kentucky:
• First and foremost is the increased usage in vehicle restraints. In 1995, vehicle occupants in Kentucky were wearing their seatbelts about 54% of the time as compared to a usage rate of nearly 85% in 2013. Combined with advancements in shoulder restraint devices, this has significantly increased the survivability rate for those involved in a crash. Nearly half of the people killed in Kentucky are not seat belted which validates national research that you are fifty percent more likely to survive a crash if you are properly restrained in your vehicle.
• Child Safety seat usage by parents has increased significantly because of statutory requirements and increased education by law enforcement and health care professionals. Nearly 98% of the children under 40 inches in height we see riding in a vehicle today are in a federally approved child safety seat. Although we desperately need a new booster seat law governing older children, we have seen a drastic reduction in child deaths because of child safety seats.
• Because of increased enforcement, stronger statutes, and better community awareness, our impaired driving fatality rate has been nearly cut in half over the past two decades. The overall number of crashes involving an impaired driver has been reduced nearly 25% in the past fifteen years.
• The teenage crash rate has also plummeted thanks to educational/training programs like the mandatory Graduated Licensing Program, “Alive at 25” and the “Drive To Stay Alive” program hosted by the Kentucky State Police each year.
• Vehicles today are safer than they have ever been. Various safety advancements coupled with a better ‘crush factor’ give motorists a higher chance of survival by ‘riding down’ the crash versus coming to an abrupt stop.
• Improved highway engineering and the addition of crossover barriers on interstates have contributed greatly to the number of survivors who make it home after a crash that otherwise would have been a head-on collision.
Despite the recent reductions, there is much left to do. Although we have seen a significant drop in fatalities involving a drunken driver, there still were 148 people who lost their lives because of these irresponsible criminals. Although our seatbelt usage rate continues to climb, statistics show that the night time usage rate amongst 21-35 year olds is extremely low. What can you do to make our roads safer?
• First and foremost is to make sure that EVERYONE in your vehicle is properly restrained…….every trip…..every time.
• Drive defensively and always obey the posted speed limits.
• Drive sober or make plans to designate a sober driver well before you go out for the evening. For more information, go to our website and sign up to be a “HERO” in our designated driver campaign.
• Report an impaired or erratic driver to our toll free number, 1-800-222-5555.
• Avoid unnecessary and dangerous distractions like texting. Twenty percent of ALL crashes that take place in the Commonwealth are attributed to a distracted driver.
As we enter into 2014, the Kentucky State Police and our partners continue efforts to reduce traffic fatalities. However, history has shown us that the goal of zero deaths in our state is impossible without the help and cooperation of our motoring citizens.