FRANKFORT, Ky.-Auto travel is expected to reach record levels throughout the nation during the Christmas-New Year holiday according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA). The organizations predict that about 81 percent of the 62.7 million holiday travelers will choose motor vehicle transportation this year.
As a result, the Kentucky State Police is starting its highway enforcement efforts early to combat a possible surge in traffic deaths. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program will begin airing “You Drink and Drive. You Lose” television commercials today in support of the holiday enforcement activities. Increased KSP traffic enforcement efforts, which include saturation road patrols and safety checkpoints, will begin today and continue through Sunday, Jan. 2. Approximately 943 KSP troopers, in conjunction with local police and sheriff’s offices, will be using all possible resources in their enforcement efforts including video, radar, unmarked vehicles and passive alcohol sensors.
“Through Dec. 19 of this year, Kentucky has experienced 931 highway fatalities,” reports Kentucky State Police Commissioner Mark Miller. “That’s already equal to our 2003 total and there are still 12 days left.”
During last year’s four-day Christmas holiday period, six people lost their lives in six separate crashes on Kentucky roadways. One of those fatalities involved the use of alcohol and four were not wearing seat belts.
“Unfortunately, whether they’re driving across town or across the state, impaired drivers will pose the greatest threat to Kentucky motorists during the holidays,” says Miller. “However, these needless tragedies do not have to happen. Those who endanger themselves and others should know they will pay a serious price. We will be aggressively enforcing the law to save lives and penalties will be severe.”
“We urge all motorists to exercise added caution and flexibility in their travel plans during this peak period,” says KSP Capt. Lisa Rudzinski, commander of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Three actions can significantly increase the chances of surviving holiday road travel: slow down, buckle up and don’t drink and drive.” Remember the following:
·Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol. Impairment begins with the first drink.
·Your best defense against a drunk driver is your seat belt. In 2003, 67 percent of highway fatalities in Kentucky were not wearing seat belts. (Kentucky law makes the driver responsible for assuring that all passengers in their vehicle are properly restrained.)
·Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway. It extends the distance required to stop a vehicle and increases the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation.
Rudzinski offers the following additional tips for safe highway travel during the holidays:
·Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause lapses in attention, slowed awareness and impaired judgement.
·Obey speed limits. Excessive speed reduces your ability to avoid a crash, extends your vehicle’s stopping distance and increases the severity of a crash when it occurs.
·Slow down in roadway construction zones. Watch for flaggers, signs, lane closures and merge well before the actual closure.
·Don’t tailgate. Follow other vehicles at a safe distance. If you find yourself being tailgated, don’t hit the brakes. Slow down gradually and let the other vehicle pass you.
·Expect the unexpected. Watch traffic around you and be prepared to react.
·Watch for road debris such as tire treads, garbage, lumber, gravel, tree limbs, mufflers and exhaust parts.
·Avoid or minimize in-car distractions such as cell phone use, changing tapes or CDs, eating or other activities that can remove your attention from the road.
·Take extra care on rural roads with 55 mile per hour speed limits.
·Don’t use cruise control. Keep your body involved and active in the driving process.
·Slow down when driving on icy or snowy roads where stopping distances are longer.
·Turn on your headlights any time your drive. This increases visibility and decreases risk.
·Avoid smoking when you drive. Nicotine and carbon monoxide can hamper night vision.
Citizens can contribute to highway safety during the holiday period by reporting erratic drivers to the KSP toll-free hotline at 1-800-222-5555. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.
“Holiday travel should always be taken seriously. Don’t let the joys of the season be ruined by a vehicle crash or an impaired driving arrest,” advises Miller. “Adjust your driving behavior to stress safety. It’s an alternative you can live with.”