If you’ve driven on Kentucky roads and highways over the past 12 months and noticed an uptick in wrecked cars, police vehicles, and ambulances on the side of the road, you’re not just seeing things. According to reports, traffic accident deaths have risen in Kentucky, raising questions as to why.
In the first six months of 2016, traffic fatalities in Kentucky rose by 24 percent over the first six months of 2015, according to the National Safety Council. That gives Kentucky the seventh-highest rate increase in the entire nation.
And according to the Kentucky State Police, there have been 763 highway fatalities to date in the Commonwealth, up by 8.2 percent from the same time period in 2015 – and that’s before the deadly holiday season really kicks into gear.
Why are more Kentuckians losing their lives on the road? What can we, if anything, do about it?
Distracted Driving Is Likely to Blame
Perhaps the main reason why more people are dying in accidents on Kentucky roads is because more people are driving distracted.
As our firm covered previously, the rise in highway fatalities over the past year can be attributed in large part to an increase in technology that’s present in peoples’ vehicles. From smartphones with distracting apps to digital screens in the console, in-car Wi-Fi, and even hands-free technology designed to eliminate distracted driving, more technology has resulted in more distractions for drivers who already have to navigate congested roads and highways.
Data from the Federal government confirms this; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began to notice this disturbing trend last year, when they found that what they call “distraction-affected fatalities” rose by 8.8 percent from 2014 to 2015, over double the increase in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.
Even hand-free cell phone use is culpable. The University of Utah found that any cell phone use while driving – whether it’s hand-held or hands-free – delays a driver’s reaction time by the same amount as driving impaired with a BAC of .08 percent.
States across the nation have taken various actions to combat distracted driving. In Kentucky, texting while driving is banned for all drivers – not just teenagers – while the vehicle is in motion. Only drivers 18 and older can use a phone at all while driving, for making a phone call and navigating via GPS. Those actions are prohibited for drivers under 18.
Of course, it can be very difficult for law enforcement officers to enforce these laws. And Kentucky does not ban the use of hand-held devices like some states.
Protecting Yourself and Others on the Road
You can’t do anything about other drivers and what they do and how they drive, but you can take measures to make you and your family safer when you’re on the road.
Eliminate all forms of distraction while driving. Don’t use your cell phone at all if you can help it. There are apps that will put your phone in driving mode that directs incoming calls to voicemail. If you need to use GPS to navigate, don’t look at the screen; use a program that has audio directions.
If you need to change stations on the radio or whatever device you use to play music, do so only when stopped. Make sure all children are buckled up and aren’t moving around the car. Don’t browse the Internet while driving or even read text messages – in fact, put your phone away out of sight if you find it difficult staying off the device while driving (which we all do, admittedly).
If every driver practiced these measures, the roads would be a lot safer to drive. You can do your part to fight distracted driving and potentially save a life.