KYTC: Lower gas prices could lead to more deaths on roadways

As we approach the end of 2014, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is reminding drivers to use caution behind the wheel to avoid becoming a statistic.

Kentucky traffic fatality numbers are on tract to edge above the 2013 fatality count.

As of Christmas Eve, there had been 632 highway deaths in 2014.  That compares to  628 for the same date last year.   The end of year total for 2013 was 638, putting fatalities within 6 of going over last year’s number with just a week to go until the new year.

Transportation Cabinet Spokesman Keith Todd says a number of factors are likely responsible for the upturn.

“It may sound odd, but the lower price of gasoline is likely a player in the higher numbers,” Todd said.  “Cheaper gas means more people driving more miles, creating the opportunity for more crashes.  When gas prices were higher folks were likely limiting their driving miles and that helped to drive down fatalities.”

Increased use of safety belts and increasingly effective safety-design features in newer vehicles get some of the credit for keeping fatality numbers on a downward trend in recent years.  Stepped up police enforcement that has reduced the number of alcohol and drug-impaired drivers on the road has also contributed to safety.  However, crashes attributed to distracted drivers have been on the upswing due to the use of cell phones.

Todd noted that while transportation engineers and highway crews are doing their part to improve safety along our roadways through new construction projects and maintenance efforts, motorists have an important role in their own safety.

“The benefit of simply wearing your safety belt has been clearly demonstrated.  It can cost a million dollars or more to redesign and construct a new intersection to provide added safety,” Todd observed.  “A project many only improve your safety for the few seconds it takes you to drive through it.  When you take two seconds to buckle your safety belt it protects you everywhere you go, not only making it far less likely you’ll be killed in a crash, but making it less likely you’ll have a life-altering injury.”

About 60 percent of the crash victims killed this year were not wearing a safety belt.  Kentucky has been averaging about a dozen fatalities a week through the year.

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