The law enforcement agencies within Perry County have partnered to create a task force focusing on reducing the number of fatalities in the county in which the victims aren’t wearing seat belts.

Perry County Sheriff’s Department, Hazard Police Department and Kentucky State Police Post 13 are working with each other and other entities in the county to address this problem.

KSP Post 13 Capt. Jennifer Sandlin said that all three law enforcement agencies are at work trying to find ways to reduce the number of unbelted fatalities in Perry County through various avenues.

“Perry County is the number one county in the commonwealth for unbelted fatalities,” Sandlin said. “In 2016, 100 percent of passengers killed in fatalities were unbelted, so we had 10 fatalities, 10 unbelted persons that were killed. In 2017, it was 100 percent also. We had six total fatalities and no one was utilizing a seatbelt. It improved a little bit in 2018, it was like 80 percent. We had five fatalities and four of those were unbelted.”

In 2019, the numbers have improved but there is still cause for concern.

“So far in 2019 we’ve had six fatalities and two were unbelted,” she said.

She added that the data for 2019 does not yet include the collision that happened on Ky. 15 near Chavies on Aug. 20. That crash resulted in the deaths of Robbie Robinson and Jeanie Gayhart, both were unbelted.

“That’s a big red flag to us, two years a row everyone killed in a collision was unbelted,” Sandlin said. “Could we say for sure that if they were using a seatbelt it wouldn’t have been a fatality? maybe, maybe not, but I think that the percentage would have been lower.”

Sandlin said that all agencies involved want to come up with solutions to combat this issue aside from enforcement of seatbelt laws. She said they may do demonstrations in schools to encourage kids to wear their seat belts and take these lessons home to their parents. She added other possible avenues may include working with local hospitals who end up treating many of those injured in collisions.

“We want it to be approached from all directions, educations and enforcement,” Sandlin said, adding many more avenues may be explored to combat this issue. “We’ve been in contact with the Department of Highway Safety. The Transpiration (Cabinet) District Office will have an engineer who will come in, We’ll have an initiative where if there’s a spike of collisions at a certain intersection we’ll notify them and bring them in to see if maybe there’s water pooling on the roadway, if we need a stoplight instead of a stop sign and look at that sort of thing.”  

Sandlin also said many who choose not to wear a seatbelt do not realize the impact they may have on those around them. She said that, if a collision results in injuries, protocol instructs all first responders to head to the scene. This includes emergency medical services, fire departments and law enforcement agencies. As a result, these collisions end up costing the county more than a non-injury collision.

According to Capt. Sandlin the bulk of this initiative would likely begin around the same time as the annual “Click it or Ticket” efforts.

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