WKYT Investigates | Breaking down pedestrian-involved crashes by county

A number of factors are to blame, experts say, for the rate of pedestrian-involved crashes across Kentucky.
WKYT Investigates | Breaking down pedestrian-involved crashes by county
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 4:21 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In a lot of ways, a person walking along or crossing the road is no match for a several-thousand-pound hunk of metal traveling at a high rate of speed.

Yet the two meet in crashes hundreds of times each year.

Just in the past couple of weeks, WKYT has covered two high-profile crashes that killed pedestrians.

Related coverage:

And, experts say, the number of crashes involving pedestrians is still too high.

Over the last three years, Fayette County has averaged the state’s highest rate of collisions involving pedestrians, with Jefferson County following closely behind.


“Any time someone is hurt on our transportation network, that is a point of concern for us,” said Chris Evilia, director of the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Evilia told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer earlier this spring that he does not like seeing Fayette County with that high of a rate, but says part of the story in Lexington is an active level of pedestrian and bicycling activity that does create more opportunities for people to get hit.

“Unlike a car, we don’t have crumple zones. We’re not wearing a helmet, necessarily, like a bicyclist might be,” he said. “We’re vulnerable. So basically, for pedestrians, we’re trying to eliminate those types of crashes altogether - or if something does happen, that it would be a low-speed type thing.”

Overall, Evilia said, the number of crashes involving pedestrians in Lexington is trending down over the past decade. (That is part of a concerted effort, he said, that includes increasing the city’s pedestrian-friendliness. An example he gave is the Town Branch Commons Trail through town.)

Meanwhile across Kentucky, data shows, pedestrian fatalities are trending higher. In 2012, 49 people were killed after being hit by a car, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ten percent of all deadly crashes in 2021 involved pedestrians, according to a Kentucky State Police analysis in its annual Collision Facts report.

[MORE | WKYT Investigates]

The most common pedestrian factors they found included walking in the roadway and wearing dark clothing or not being visible. For drivers, most were traveling straight ahead instead of making a turn. Speed and driver distractions also remain big factors and concerns, experts said.

Planners say the three E’s - engineering, education and enforcement - all play a role in reducing crash numbers. In December, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council adopted a “complete streets” policy, which means looking at the design of streets with all users in mind instead of only drivers.

[Read Lexington’s complete streets policy here.]

“It’s not just from an engineering point that the road is safe, it’s that they feel safe and comfortable using these facilities, and how do we get to that point?” Evilia said.

Nine of Kentucky’s 120 counties did not have any reported crashes involving pedestrians over the full three-year span (2020-2022). Those counties are spread throughout the state, but they are all in more rural areas. The average population of those nine counties is fewer than 10,000 people.


But the data shows it is not always just a matter of a county’s population.

[Explore your county’s data in the interactive graphic embedded above or in your browser here.]