Department of Highways, District 10
Traffic accident victims from 2005 memorialized at Slade rest area

Press Release Date:  Monday, May 22, 2006  
Contact Information:  H.B. ELKINS
(606) 666-8841

JACKSON, KY. – (May 22, 2006) -- The 985 persons who lost their lives in 2005 on Kentucky highways were remembered today at the Junior Williamson Rest Area on the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway in Powell County. A bronze plate denoting the 985 fatalities last year, the most since 1973, was added to the monument at the rest area. Numbers of fatalities for the previous nine years are also listed on the plaque.

"We pause today to remember those who lost their lives in traffic accidents last year," said Linda Wagner-Justice, District 10 chief district engineer. "With Memorial Day coming up, this is an appropriate time to honor their memories and extend condolences to those who lost loved ones. It's also an appropriate time to remind drivers that there are a few very simple and easy steps they can take to help them avoid crashes, or to increase their odds of survival if they do get caught up in a wreck."

Nearly two out of every three victims in highway crashes last year were not wearing a safety belt. The crash victims ranged in age from 0 to 97, and 148 of those killed were 19 or younger. At least 240 of the fatalities occurred in an alcohol-related accident. There were fatal accidents in 119 of Kentucky's 120 counties, including each of the 10 counties (Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell and Wolfe) that make up the Department of Highways District 10.

While several states have markers for employees killed in the line of duty, Kentucky was the first state to erect permanent memorials for motorists killed in fatal traffic accidents. In addition to the Slade rest area, these monuments are located at eight welcome centers throughout the state, and in front of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet headquarters in Frankfort.

The plaque on each memorial requests a moment of silence for the lives lost. Transportation Cabinet officials hope motorists seeing the signs will pause and reflect on the lives lost and realize their own responsibility for safety on the roads.

The Transportation Cabinet saw the establishment of these markers as a safety issue. Many people place roadside memorials at the site where their loved one died, making them dangerous to install and maintain as well as distracting to drivers. The permanent rest area memorials were placed to discourage these private memorials.

Governor Ernie Fletcher’s courageous move to call for a primary seat belt law put the issue in the forefront during the recent session of the General Assembly. Legislators adopted a seat belt bill and Governor Fletcher signed it into law. Enacting the primary seat belt law was viewed as the single most important safety measure of the 2006 legislative session as the Cabinet works to put the brakes on fatalities and reduce serious injury crashes on Kentucky highways.

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 will have on Kentucky families and the state’s economy. Some 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 Memorial Day holiday begins the annual summer travel season," Wagner-Justice said. "We want to remind motorists to buckle up, remain focused on driving and avoid distractions, not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, obey traffic laws, and to 'Drive Smart' and stay alert for road construction zones and the workers making improvements to our highways."