Department of Highways, District 10
Speakers to rally support for primary seat belt legislation this Friday; residents of 10-county District 10 area urged to attend

Press Release Date:  Monday, February 20, 2006  
Contact Information:  H.B. ELKINS
(606) 666-8841

JACKSON, KY. – (Feb. 20, 2006) -- Highway safety experts, Transportation Cabinet officials, crash survivors, medical professionals, emergency personnel and supportive legislators are expected to attend a rally on Friday and speak in support of the primary seat belt legislation now making its way through the General Assembly.

Residents of Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Wolfe counties are invited to attend the rally to show support for primary seat belt legislation. The rally will be held on Friday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. at the Rural Law Enforcement Technology Center (Hal Rogers Center) in Hazard. The building is located at 101 Bulldog Lane, just off KY 15 south of Hazard, in front of Hazard High School.

On display will be the "Saved By The Belt" vehicle, which is a Transportation Cabinet vehicle that was involved in a crash in Rockcastle County last year. The driver, a Transportation Cabinet employee from the District 8 office, survived because he was wearing his seat belt. The Crash Test Dummies and Buckle Up Bear will also be making an appearance to stress the importance of wearing safety belts.

"We are asking everyone who favors the passage of this legislation to attend and show their support," said Linda Wagner-Justice, chief district engineer for the Department of Highways District 10. "We especially want emergency service providers and first responders, members of the medical community and others in our District 10 counties with an interest in this bill to come and express their thoughts on how vital this life-saving legislation is."

This legislation is a priority of Governor Ernie Fletcher and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Governor Fletcher and Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert spoke in favor of the bill at a statewide rally Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

"Nothing is more important than the lives of our citizens. We need a primary seat belt law now," Governor Fletcher said.

Two weeks ago, the House Transportation Committee approved the legislation and sent it to the full House of Representatives for a vote. The issue is currently before the full House and is expected to come up for a final vote soon..

"A primary seat belt law is the single most important thing we can do in this state to reduce fatalities and serious injuries caused by vehicle crashes," Secretary Nighbert said. "I applaud the members of the committee and the leadership shown by Governor Fletcher to bring this issue to the forefront. This is about saving lives."

Statistics show about 67 percent of Kentuckians wear their seat belts. The state ranks 47th nationally in seat belt usage. If the seat belt bill becomes law, at least 62 lives will be saved in the first year.

"The time has come to pass this legislation. Our cars are built differently, our speed limits have changed and we have to change to protect our people," said Representative Marie Rader, R-McKee, who represents the District 10 county of Owsley in the House of Representatives. The committee’s vice-chairwoman went on to say "if my vote can save one life, it's worth whatever sacrifice I make."

A primary seat belt law would give law enforcement officers the authority to pull over a motorist simply for not wearing a seat belt. Currently, a driver has to commit another traffic offense before he or she can be pulled over for not being buckled up.

Recent research from the University of Kentucky’s Transportation Center and from the Kentucky Institute of Medicine revealed some startling projections concerning the impact a primary seat belt law would have on Kentucky families and the state’s economy. Some of the highlights include:

  • At least 62 fewer fatalities per year
  • 388 fewer incapacitating spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries
  • 1,051 fewer non-incapacitating injuries from accidents involving passenger vehicles and light trucks.
  • Kentucky’s Medicaid budget would save a minimum of $40.9 million over 10 years, including $2.2 million the first year and $585,000 per year for long-term medical care.
  • Kentucky would save $324 million in comprehensive costs (lost life years and productivity).

The recently approved federal highway reauthorization bill includes another incentive for a primary seat belt law. Under the federal bill, if Kentucky adopts a primary seat belt law, the state will get an additional $11.2 million in federal funds to use for safety improvements on state roads.

District 10 of the Department of Highways consists of Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Wolfe counties in east-central and southeastern Kentucky.