FRANKFORT, KY-As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, increased highway traffic is expected throughout the commonwealth. In an effort to save lives, the Kentucky State Police will be increasing its road patrols and operating safety checkpoints statewide beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24 and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28.
“Through Nov. 21, Kentucky has recorded 846 highway fatalities in 2004,” reports Kentucky State Police Commissioner Mark Miller, “That’s eight more than last year at this time.”
During the four-day 2003 Thanksgiving holiday period, 11 people died in 11 separate crashes on Kentucky roadways. One of the crashes involved alcohol and eight of the victims were not using seat belts.
“In order to reduce these needless deaths, we’re urging motorists to slow down and use courtesy when travelling on the state’s roadways,” says Kentucky State Police Commissioner Mark Miller. “Allow additional time to arrive at your destination, buckle up and use adult and child safety restraint devices.”
As part of their increased activities, the Kentucky State Police will also be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort). This nationwide program works to reduce crashes on interstate highways and parkways by concentrating on the three key causes of traffic fatalities: speeding, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints.
“Troopers will be coordinating enforcement activities with local police and sheriff’s offices,” explains Lt. Col. Dean Hayes, director of the KSP Operations Division. “They’ll also be using video equipment and passive alcohol sensors to assist their efforts to combat alcohol-impaired driving."
Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 will result in an immediate arrest even for first time offenders, says KSP Capt. Lisa Rudzinski, commander of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
Kentucky law makes the driver responsible for assuring that all occupants in their vehicle are properly restrained. “A citation may be issued only if a motorist is stopped for reasons other than violation of the seat belt law,” says Rudzinski. “However, no warnings will be issued to drivers found not wearing a safety belt as a secondary violation. They will receive a citation.”
“In 2003, 66 percent of the highway fatalities in Kentucky were not using seat belts. Protecting yourself, your children and your passengers is your responsibility and it’s law enforcement’s duty,” she adds.
According to Kentucky law, all children 40 inches in height or less, must be buckled into a child safety restraint seat that meets federal standards. Children over 40 inches tall must wear a seat belt. Violation of this law will result in a $50.00 fine with an additional $10.00 fine donated to the Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund.
Motorists should be aware that the back seat is the safest place for children to sit, especially in vehicles equipped with passenger-side air bags. Infants and toddlers should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Parents should always be sure that their child’s safety seat has been properly installed in the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
To help keep traffic within posted speed limits, troopers will also be operating in special laser speed enforcement teams. While many drivers don't consider speeding to be as risky as impaired driving or not wearing seat belts, studies show that higher travel speeds are responsible for a significant increase in highway traffic deaths. "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," says Rudzinski.
Motorists should also remember that Kentucky law requires them to slow down and use caution when they see a law enforcement or emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road with its lights flashing. They must move over to the lane farthest away from the vehicle if they are on a two-lane road and can do so safely.
“Highway traffic fatalities are not just statistics, they represent human lives and potentials,” observes Miller. “The needless loss of even one life is a tragedy. We can and must do better. By paying more attention to our driving behaviors and using existing safety equipment, everyone can help reduce crashes and save lives. We can make a difference.”
Citizens can contribute to highway safety during the holiday period by reporting erratic, impaired or speeding drivers to the KSP toll-free hotline at 1-800-222-5555. Signs that a driver might be impaired include weaving, swerving, drifting or straddling the center line; driving on the wrong side of the road; driving at inconsistent speeds; stopping without cause or braking erratically; ignoring or responding slowly to traffic lights; driving too close to curbs and driving at night with no lights. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number, if possible.