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Kentucky Highway Fatalities Continue Decline

By Charles Compton, Kentucky Publc Radio The final three road fatalities in Kentucky during 2010 may have been prevented, if the victims had obeyed state law. They were not wearing safety belts. Since 2005, a series of laws have cleared the Kentucky General Assembly, meant to make Kentucky’s roads safer. And, there are indications the laws are having an effect. Lawmakers tightened restrictions on child safety seats. The law also allows police to pull-over drivers who don’t wear seatbelts. And, most recently, the legislature has banned texting by drivers. Coincidentally, State Police Lieutenant David Jude says the number of fatal accidents in Kentucky has declined. “We’re on a, about a five year reduction in fatalities. So not just from 2009 to 2010, but also over the several years prior to that, our fatalities have been decreasing in the state,” said Jude. In 2005, just under 1,000 people died on the commonwealth’s highways. Nearly 800 people died in 2009. And preliminary figures for 2010 show another decrease, with 747 people dying in traffic accidents. Jude says Kentucky’s doing a better job with driver education and in enforcing its traffic laws. He adds drivers are also making better decisions….especially teenagers. Within the last five years, the state has implemented limits on the times when teenagers can drive and on the number of passengers they can carry. Most recently, the state banned cell phone use by teenage drivers. “We recognized that nationally that particular age group is more likely to be involved in a crash. And, it’s simply because their driving experience isn’t there,” said Jude. Another piece of useful legislation, according to Lieutenant Jude, cracks down on impaired drivers. He says it eases the prosecution of drunk drivers, drivers who abuse drugs, and even drivers who are impaired by legally prescribed drugs. Jude credits the success to a concerted effort that has everyone, police, lawmakers and their communities, working together. “You can’t give credit to just one particular thing, saying ‘this is the reason why fatalities are going down.’ This is a multi-faceted solution to this and the only way it’s going to work is get everybody involved. And, that’s really been the approach over the State of Kentucky over the last several years and I really think those efforts are starting to come through, said Jude. Despite progress, over half of the people killed last year in traffic accidents were not wearing seatbelts. And, alcohol abuse was a factor in one out of every four fatal accidents.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.