Highway fatalities increased last year in Kentucky

Road Crash

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Highway fatalities in Kentucky increased last year, according to numbers from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) and Kentucky State Police (KSP).

There were 834 fatalities in 2016, 73 more than 2015.

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“We are greatly concerned with the number of people who lost their lives on our roadways,” said KOHS Executive Director Dr. Noelle Hunter. “These figures are unacceptable to us and they should be unacceptable to every driver – every person — in our state. We all have to be much more vigilant about personal safety and personal responsibility behind the wheel if we are going to reverse this trend.”

Of the 834 highway fatalities last year in Kentucky, 50.9 percent were not wearing a seat belt and 16.8 percent involved alcohol. More than 36 percent involved speeding or aggressive drivers and 23 percent involved driver distraction. Motorcyclists accounted for 90 fatalities, with 60 percent not wearing helmets.

“With growing social acceptance of dangerous driving behaviors, such as texting while driving, speeding, driving impaired and not wearing a seat belt, we face a great challenge,” said Dr. Hunter.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 90 percent of crashes are due to human error.

“Driving is not a right,” said KSP Trooper Josh Brashears. “It is a privilege that may be taken away if responsible choices are not made behind the wheel.”

Trooper Brashears emphasized law enforcement’s role in saving lives.

“Traffic laws are in place for a reason, and we will cite anyone we see violating the law,” said Trooper Brashears. “We would much rather write a ticket than make a death notification.”

The highway fatality increase is not an issue solely for Kentucky. According to the National Safety Council, preliminary estimates indicate motor vehicle deaths totaled 40,200 last year, up 6 percent from 2015 and the first time fatalities exceeded 40,000 since 2007.

“While national fatality rates are similar to ours, this is not a case in which we should follow the national trend,” said Dr. Hunter. “We have to buckle up, put the cell phones down and drive like our lives depend on it – because they do.”

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that seat belts, when worn correctly, reduce the risk of fatalities by 45 percent for front-seat vehicle occupants and by 60 percent for pickup truck, SUV and minivan occupants. Also according to NHTSA, regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect against and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

So far in 2017, preliminary numbers indicate there have been 210 roadway fatalities – down from 226 compared to the same time last year.

Kentucky’s history of highway fatalities:
2000 823
2001 843
2002 915
2003 931
2004 964
2005 985
2006 913
2007 864
2008 826
2009 791
2010 760
2011 721
2012 746
2013 638
2014 672
2015 761
2016 834

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.