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Sergeant Michael B. Webb
Kentucky State Police
Public Affairs Branch
Office (502) 782-1780

KSP Driving Tips Can Save Your Life During Memorial Day Weekend

Date of News Release: 05/22/2006

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - Traffic on the state's roadways is expected to increase significantly during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, which traditionally marks the beginning of the summer driving season. Accordingly, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) plans to intensify its traffic safety efforts from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 26, through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 29. To increase your chances of surviving highway travel during this dangerous holiday, the law enforcement agency offers this simple advice: slow down, buckle up and don't drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The KSP is now conducting back-to-back intensified enforcement campaigns. "Buckle Up In Your Truck" and "Buckle Up Kentucky -- It's The Law and It's Enforced," started May 14 and continue through June 5.

"We are committed to making drivers of cars and pick-up trucks and their passengers safer in their vehicles," said KSP Commissioner Mark L. Miller.

During the Memorial Day holiday last year, seven people lost their lives on Kentucky roadways. Five of the victims were not wearing seat belts. As of May 21 of this year, 254 motor vehicle occupants have been killed. Of these, 164 were not wearing seat belts.

"Many of these fatalities might have been avoided if the drivers and passengers had followed the advice of highway safety experts," said Miller.

This year's campaigns will include an aggressive focus on drawing attention to seat belt use in pickup trucks.

Studies conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that occupants of pickup trucks consistently have lower seat belt usage rates than occupants of other motor vehicles. The NHTSA also reports that using a seat belt is the single-most effective action you can take to protect yourself in a vehicle crash. Seat belt use reduces the risk of sustaining a fatal injury by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a light truck.

State troopers will be working overtime throughout the Memorial Day three-day weekend, said Lt. Col. Dean Hayes, KSP Operations Division Director.

"The KSP enforcement campaigns coincide with the national Click It or Ticket and C.A.R.E., Combined Accident Reduction Effort, campaigns," said Hayes. " Operations will include radar and laser details as well as increased saturation patrols and traffic safety checkpoints in high-crash, high-traffic locations. We will coordinate enforcement activities with local police and sheriff's departments for maximum coverage."

Motorists should remember to slow down and use caution when they see a law enforcement or emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road with its lights flashing. Kentucky law requires motorists to move over to the lane farthest away from the vehicle if they can do so safely.

Motorists should also be aware that the back seat is the safest place for children to sit, especially in vehicles equipped with passenger-side air bags. Infants and toddlers should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Parents should always be sure that their child's safety seat has been properly installed in the vehicle according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Kentucky law requires all children 40 inches in height or less to be buckled into a child safety restraint seat that meets federal standards. Children over 40 inches tall must wear a seat belt. Violation of this law will result in a $50 fine with an additional $10 fine donated to the Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund.

According to NHTSA, properly installed child safety seats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers in passenger cars.

Kentucky law makes the driver responsible for assuring that all occupants of the vehicle are properly restrained. Violation of this law will result in a fine not to exceed $25.

Motorists should also be aware that Kentucky has a zero tolerance policy regarding driving while impaired by alcohol. Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 will result in an immediate arrest, even for first-time offenders.

"Impairment can begin with the first drink," said Miller. "Arrest and conviction on impaired driving violations can result in court costs, legal fees, higher auto insurance rates, fines, loss of license and even imprisonment. Don't take the chance. It's not worth it."

Other tips recommended by KSP for safe road travel include:

  • Obey speed limits. Excessive speed reduces your ability to avoid a crash, extends your vehicle's stopping distance and increases the severity of a crash when it occurs.
  • Slow down in roadway construction zones. Watch for lane closures and merge well before the actual closure. Look for orange warning signs, follow posted speed limits, leave adequate space between vehicles, watch for workers and sudden stops and be prepared for changing road surfaces and traffic patterns.
  • Don't tailgate. Follow other vehicles at a safe distance. If you find yourself being tailgated, don't hit the brakes. Slow down gradually and let the other vehicle pass you.
  • Avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as passing on the shoulder of the road, changing lanes without signaling, violating traffic signals and weaving in and out of traffic.
  • Expect the unexpected. Watch traffic around you and be prepared to react. Scan the road ahead for potential hazards.
  • Watch for road debris such as tire treads, garbage, lumber, gravel, tree limbs, mufflers and exhaust parts.
  • Take extra care on rural roads with 55 mile per hour speed limits.
  • Avoid or minimize in-car distractions such as cell phone use, changing tapes or CDs, eating or other activities that can remove your attention from the road.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause lapses in attention, slowed awareness and impaired judgement.
  • Take frequent breaks to keep alert during long distance trips.
  • Be extra cautious around large trucks. They have large "blind spots" and much longer stopping distances than passenger cars.

"Please do your part to be safe," said Hayes. "Remember, 80 percent of crashes occur within 20 minutes of home at speeds of 45 miles per hour or less. About 40 percent of all fatal crashes occur on roads where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour or less."

"I strongly urge the traveling public to take heed of these warnings and advice before they start out for the family outing or company picnic," said Miller. "Use your seat belts and slow down. These tips will increase your chances of survival and reduced speed will also improve your gas mileage."

Citizens can further contribute to highway safety during the holiday period by reporting erratic drivers to the KSP toll-free hotline at 1-800-222-5555 (in the state of Kentucky only, does not work out of state). Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.

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