KOHS encourages drivers to be smart behind the wheel


FRANKFORT, Ky.- The rate of fatalities on Kentucky’s roadways is increasing in 2016, according to preliminary numbers from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS). As of Oct. 24, there were 640 fatalities – 29 more than at the same time last year.

“With only two months left in the year, we are encouraging drivers to take responsibility for their driving behaviors,” said KOHS Executive Director Dr. Noelle Hunter. “More people are traveling our roadways, which might explain the fatality increase; however, it does not explain why people are not making safe decisions behind the wheel.”

Of the 640 people killed on Kentucky roadways so far this year, 238 were not wearing seat belts, 110 died in crashes involving alcohol, 90 occurred due to speeding, 154 were a result of driver inattention and 59 were pedestrians. Motorcyclists accounted for 81 fatalities, 50 of which involved a rider not wearing a helmet.

Roadway fatality numbers are increasing nationwide as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2015 marked the largest increase in traffic deaths since 1966. Preliminary estimates for the first half of 2016 show an increase of approximately 10.4 percent, compared with the number of fatalities in the first half of 2015.

“Recent roadway tragedies have put highway fatalities and injuries back in the headlines, but it is what we deal with on a daily basis,” said Hunter. “It is our goal to bring highway safety awareness to all Kentucky motorists and support law enforcement in their effort to remove anyone from the roadway who is endangering the lives of others.”

The KOHS distributes federal grant money to state and local law enforcement agencies for enforcement and awareness campaigns throughout the year. The “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign occurs yearly through the Memorial Day weekend, and the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign occurs through the Labor Day weekend and again during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday.

“Contrary to popular belief, officers are not required to write a specific number of tickets,” said Hunter. “It’s not about a quota – it’s about saving lives.”

According to NHTSA, more than 90 percent of crashes are due to driver error. Also according to NHTSA, one of the most effective countermeasures in reducing highway traffic fatalities is creating general deterrence through a combination of high-visibility enforcement and public awareness. When the perceived risk of getting caught by law enforcement goes up, the likelihood that people will engage in unsafe driving behaviors goes down.

For more information, visit http://highwaysafety.ky.gov.