Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 10, 2013

Safer highways

Number of traffic fatalities should decline sharper in 2013

The Independent

ASHLAND — Kentucky is on a pace to record a rather significant reduction in the number of traffic deaths on the state’s highways in 2013. The state recorded 98 fewer traffic deaths through Dec. 1 than it had during the same period in 2012.

A number of factors can be attributed to the decline in traffic deaths. More Kentuckians than ever are buckling up, although the state remains slightly below the national average in seat belt use. Thanks to much tougher drunk driving laws and the social stigma now associated with driving while intoxicated, far fewer drunk drivers are on the state’s roadways.

Of the 586 who lost their lives on the state’s highways through Dec. 1, alcohol use was a factor in 132 of the fatalities. That’s still far too many, but it is much, much lower than when alcohol use was a factor in nearly half of the traffic fatalities in the state.

 Of the 586 deaths through Dec. 1, 451 were drivers or passengers in motor vehicles, and 225 of the victims were not wearing seat belts. Seventy-two people died in motorcycle accidents during the first 11 months of 2013, and 44 of those victims were not wearing helmets, which are not required by law in Kentucky. All 10 victims in fatal ATV crashes were not wearing helmets.Other fatalities have included pedestrians, bicycle riders and someone in an animal-drawn vehicle.

Other factors that have resulted in fewer traffic deaths are safer vehicles with better brakes and air bags that often save lives in accidents; much safer highways particularly in the rural mountainous parts of the state; fewer people doing foolish things like texting, eating and even talking in their cell phones when driving; the list goes on and on.

Almost 600  deaths on the state’s highways in only 11 months is not cause to pat ourselves on the backs and say that we have done enough, but there is no question that the state’s highways are becoming safer. All you have to do is look at the numbers.