HAZARD – More than 700 people in Kentucky were killed in motor vehicle collisions last year. Beginning this weekend, law enforcement officials across the state will be participating in a program that they hope will help prevent that figure from being repeated.
It’s called the Click It or Ticket campaign, and several police officers gathered at the Perry County Public Library on Friday where they urged people to think about safety while on the road.
“The heart of our mission is to protect the public,” noted Kentucky State Police Trooper Tony Watts, who said that while law enforcement officers are on the lookout year round, this annual campaign is a way to bring awareness to the public on highway safety issues.
Beginning Saturday, May 20, officers will be placing a greater emphasis on traffic safety, including the enforcement of seat belt and DUI laws. Since Kentucky’s legislature adopted a primary seat belt law, usage of safety belts in motor vehicles has continued to rise from just over 60 percent to 83 percent now. That’s just two percentage points below the national average. Watts described these enforcement efforts as effective, and while the purpose is not to simply hit the road and write as many citations as possible, the numbers show that their work is effective.
“We do know that what we’re doing is making a difference,” Watts said.
But despite the improving numbers, there are still hundreds of Kentuckians dying in motor vehicle crashes each year, and many of those could be preventable, noted Captain Blake Slone, commander of the Kentucky State Police post in Hazard. Of the five Post 13 counties, which include Perry, Knott, Leslie, Letcher and Breathitt, there were 2,353 collisions, 26 of which involved fatalities. Of the 28 people who were killed in this post area last year, Slone added, 19 were not wearing seat belts.
“We ask that you do your part and buckle up,” Slone said, “and please ask those that are with you to do the same.”
In the city of Hazard, Police Chief Minor Allen said drivers can expect to encounter safety checkpoints on the roadways during this added enforcement period, which is set to end on June 2. The program also affords the department an opportunity to add manpower during certain shifts through authorized overtime.
Allen said the department estimates that about 63 percent of the drivers in the city are wearing seat belts, and that number needs to increase.
“We don’t have that many fatalities in the city, but … last year we had 108 injury-related accidents, and some of those were because of non-use of seat belts,” he said.