While no one can accurately predict where a traffic accident might take place, information gathered by the Kentucky State Police gives us a pretty good idea of when the odds are certainly more in our favor.
Based on its latest annual report, which was released last week, one of the safest places to be on the highway in 2010 was in a vehicle driven at dawn on a Sunday in March by a woman in her late 60s or early 70s who was making her way between Owensboro and Henderson on the Audubon Parkway.
If you were in a car driven on an urban state road by a man in his late 20s or early 30s during the daytime on a Friday last November, however, your chances of being in an accident were much higher.
Altogether, you had about a one in 129 chance of getting injured while on the highway last year. For traffic fatalities, the rate was one in every 3,300 Kentucky drivers.
While one is too many, we are least heading in the right direction, as the number of fatalities in 2010 dropped to its lowest level since at least 1996. On top of that, we’re on pace to go even lower, since there have been about 50 fewer fatalities so far this year than at the same point in 2010.
It appears that the General Assembly’s efforts to improve highway safety are paying off. Recent legislation to crack down on DUIs and texting while driving, not to mention tightening restrictions on our youngest drivers, have all helped, as has work done by our law enforcement officers.
Altogether, there were a little more than 150,000 traffic accidents across the Commonwealth in 2010, and their direct economic cost to the state topped $2 billion.
The number of accidents involving injury went down slightly when compared to 2009, while the number of those involving property damage went up slightly. Oddly, the number of accidents in parking lots or on private property increased by more than seven percent.
The KSP report breaks all of these accidents down in ways large and small. Fifty-six percent of those killed in vehicles were not wearing seat belts, for example, and alcohol was a factor in about a fifth of the cases in which someone died.
Nearly 100 motorcyclists were killed, and 60 of those were not wearing a helmet. The same held true for all but one of the 18 people who died in an ATV accident.
There were 11,000 hit-and-runs, 8,000 accidents involving a parked vehicle and 5,000 collisions between a vehicle and a deer or another animal.
There were more than 1,000 accidents involving emergency vehicles, nearly 850 involving school buses and just shy of 200 involving farm equipment.
Around 60 of the highway deaths were pedestrians, and in nearly half of those cases, the pedestrian was wearing dark clothing or otherwise was not easily visible. There were 23 deaths due to fatigue, 10 involving collisions with trains, eight caused as a result of cell phone use and four due to people lying in the road.
Of our interstates, I-64 and I-75 saw 19 fatalities each in 2010, but I-75 had the most accidents. The Breathitt Parkway in Western Kentucky had seven deaths last year, which was almost as much as every other parkway put together; combined, the remainder had 10.
All of this information is just part of what can be found in the KSP report, which can be downloaded online at kentuckystatepolice.org. It’s a useful tool that enables the legislature to better target ways we can make our roads even safer, which is always a top priority, especially when we adopt the state road plan every two years.
We got a boost in that area last Thursday, when the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety announced that it has awarded $4.7 million in federal funding to law enforcement agencies and highway safety agencies across the Commonwealth. This money is covering overtime costs, training and educational programs, and comes at an ideal time.
As always, I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions involving this column or anything else affecting state government. I can be reached by writing to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601. You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.