Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement
Traffic deaths in Kentucky drop 8%

Press Release Date:  Thursday, January 04, 2007  
Contact Information:  Bobby Clue
Information Officer

KVE Car PictureTraffic deaths in Kentucky drop 8%

By Jennifer Hewlett

Traffic fatalities in Kentucky last year, down 8 percent from 2005, were at a five-year low in 2006, preliminary statistics from state government indicate.

Officials credit stronger laws, education and smarter enforcement for the drop.

According to the preliminary count, 907 people died on Kentucky roadways in 2006, 78 fewer than in 2005. It was also the first time since 1999 that the year-to-year fatality count had dropped.

Kentucky State Police are "cautiously optimistic" that the number of traffic fatalities will be even lower in 2007, said state police spokesperson Major Lisa Rudzinski.

A big reason for the cautious optimism is that this will be the first full year of enforcing Kentucky's primary seat belt law, which went into effect July 12.

The law allows police to pull over motorists solely for not buckling up. Previously, they could be cited for not wearing seat belts only if they were stopped for other offenses.

After the new law went into effect, there was a six-month grace period in which no actual citations for violations of the law were issued.

Of the 766 people who died in car crashes in Kentucky in 2006, 494 were not wearing seat belts, the statistics show.

Safety devices also were not in use by many of those who died while using other types of vehicles. The early statistics show that 48 of the 73 people who died while riding motorcycles, and all 10 of those who died on all-terrain vehicles on Kentucky roads, were not wearing helmets.

The early numbers show that 53 pedestrians and five bicyclists died on state roadways in 2006.

Various law enforcement agencies in the state joined in a coordinated effort to reduce traffic fatalities in 2006, Rudzinski said.

"We also reviewed historical trends where crashes were occurring to ensure that we had enforcement officers in the right places attempting to reduce the driving behavior that can lead to crashes."

The joint effort also included campaigns to educate the public on the importance of buckling up, and other safety measures.

Rudzinski thinks an increase in seat belt usage because of an educational campaign about the new primary seat belt law played a role in the decrease in fatalities in 2006.

Officials will be able to get a better idea of how the new law is working in May when an annual observation survey is done, she said.

Last year's survey, done before Kentucky's new seat belt law went into effect, showed that the state had the fifth-lowest safety belt usage in the nation. The national seat belt usage rate was 82 percent, while Kentucky's was 67 percent, she said.