FRANKFORT, Ky. - Traffic on the state's roadways is expected to increase significantly during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, which traditionally marks the beginning of the summer driving season. Accordingly, the Kentucky State Police plans to intensify its traffic safety efforts from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 23, through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 26.
To increase your chances of surviving highway travel during this dangerous holiday, KSP offers this simple advice: slow down, buckle up and don't drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
"Last year, there were 835 crashes in Kentucky during the Memorial Day weekend," says KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "Eight people lost their lives and 355 were injured. Many of these fatalities and injuries might have been avoided if the drivers had slowed down, buckled up and avoided the use of drugs and alcohol."
"As of May 18, a total of 270 people have lost their lives on Kentucky's roadways in 2008," says Capt. Tim Lucas, commander of KSP's Highway Safety Branch. "Of the 220 motor vehicle fatalities, 142 were not wearing seat belts and 50 were the result of crashes involving the suspected use of alcohol."
Lucas points out that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), using a seat belt is the single most effective action you can take to protect yourself in a vehicle crash. Seat belt use reduces the risk of sustaining a fatal injury by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a light truck. It also reports that 60 percent of passengers killed in traffic crashes are not wearing
Lucas also reminds motorists that Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol. "Although driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 is illegal, you can also be arrested for lower levels if you are under 21 years of age or operating a commercial vehicle," he explains. "If you are going to drive, it's best not to consume any alcohol at all."
"Even first time violators face immediate arrest, which can result in court costs, legal fees, higher auto insurance rates, fines, loss of license and even imprisonment," he adds.
As part of the "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which started May 19 and continues through June 1, state troopers will be working overtime during the Memorial Day holiday. Operations will include increased saturation patrols and traffic safety checkpoints and coordinated enforcement activities with local police and sheriff's departments for maximum coverage.
KSP reminds motorists that Kentucky law requires them to slow down and use caution when they see a law enforcement or emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road with its lights flashing. They must move over to the lane farthest away from the vehicle if they are on a four-lane road with two lanes proceeding in the same direction and can do so safely.
Motorists should also be aware that the back seat is the safest place for children to sit, especially in vehicles equipped with passenger-side air bags. Infants and toddlers should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Parents should always be sure that their child's safety seat has been properly installed in the vehicle according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Kentucky law requires all children 40 inches in height or less to be buckled into a child safety restraint seat that meets federal standards. Children over 40 inches tall must wear a seat belt. Violators face a $50.00 fine with an additional $10.00 fine donated to the Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund.
According to NHTSA, properly installed child safety seats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars.
Kentucky law makes the driver responsible for assuring that all occupants of the vehicle are properly restrained. Violation of this law will result in a fine not to exceed $25.00.
Other tips recommended by KSP for safe road travel include:
-Slow down in roadway construction zones. Watch for lane closures and
merge well before the actual closure. Look for orange warning signs,
follow posted speed limits, leave adequate space between vehicles,
watch for workers and sudden stops and be prepared for changing road
surfaces and traffic patterns.
-Avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as passing on the shoulder of
the road, changing lanes without signaling, violating traffic signals
and weaving in and out of traffic.
-Expect the unexpected. Watch traffic around you and be prepared to
react. Scan the road ahead for potential hazards.
-Watch for road debris such as tire treads, garbage, lumber, gravel,
tree limbs, mufflers and exhaust parts.
-Take extra care on rural roads with 55 mile per hour speed limits.
"Please do your part to be safe," says Brewer. "Remember, three out of
four crashes happen within 25 miles of home at speeds of 45 miles per
hour or less. About 40 percent of all fatal crashes occur on roads
where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour or less."
Citizens can further contribute to highway safety during the holiday
period by reporting erratic drivers to the KSP toll-free hotline at
1-800-222-5555. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a
description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license
number if possible.