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FRANKFORT — To help drivers and passengers remember the importance of seat belt use and other safe driving practices, Kentucky is promoting Operation Crash Reduction.
The operation’s goal is saving lives and preventing injuries due to traffic crashes. During this time, law enforcement will conduct a high-visibility enforcement campaign, with an emphasis on seat belt use.
“As a driver, you’re not alone on the road, so you can’t prevent every possible collision. But you can ensure that every time you get in the car, you are as safe as possible if a crash happens,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Put your phone down and buckle up.”
The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, state and local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are teaming up to support the operation.
“While we always encourage safe driving practices, this specialized campaign focuses on the importance of buckling up,” said KOHS Acting Executive Director Jason Siwula. “If you are involved in a crash, a properly fastened child seat and seat belt provides the best defense against injury or death.”
OCR is focused on NHTSA Region 3, which comprises Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — a region that sees some of the nation’s highest numbers of traffic deaths.
According to NHTSA, in each year from 2014 to 2018, this specific set of states had 882 fatal crashes from Oct. 1-15. This is the highest number of fatal crashes for the first 15 days of any month during this same time period. In fact, from 2014 to 2018, October was the most likely month for fatal crashes to occur in these states, with 1,772 total fatal crashes. In these fatal crashes, more than 45 percent of occupant deaths in passenger vehicles, trucks and buses were unrestrained. During that same period in these states, more fatal crashes occurred on the long holiday weekend (257) than during the holiday periods of Thanksgiving or Memorial Day. This holiday period was the most dangerous of 2018 for these states, with 52 fatal crashes.
“For several years now, we have had this troubling trend in this East Coast region,” said NHTSA Regional Administrator Stephanie Hancock. “We know that speed, distraction and impairment are the root causes of most of the crashes in these states. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your primary sources of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired or distracted driver.”
Last year there were 345 injuries and seven deaths on Kentucky roadways during the Oct. 11-14 holiday weekend.
“That is why we are working with NHTSA and our state and local law enforcement partners to encourage motorists buckle up and put the phone down,” said Siwula.
According to NHTSA, when worn correctly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities by 45 percent for front-seat vehicle occupants and by 60 percent for pickup truck, SUV and minivan occupants.
“Seat belts save lives,” said Hancock. “Everyone — front seat and back, child and adult — should remember to buckle up.”