Operation Crash Reduction continues through Monday

The upcoming Columbus Day holiday provides a great opportunity for long weekend getaways — and this means more cars on the road. This is why the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS), state and local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are teaming up for the inaugural Operation Crash Reduction effort with a focus on Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Operation Crash Reduction runs Oct. 11-14 with a goal of saving lives and preventing injuries due to traffic crashes. During this time, law enforcement will conduct a high-visibility enforcement campaign, with an emphasis on seat belt use.

“While we always encourage safe driving practices, this specialized campaign focuses on the importance of buckling up,” said KOHS Acting Executive Director Jason Siwula. “If you are involved in a crash, a properly-fastened seat belt provides the best defense against injury or death.”

According to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), from 2013-2017, this specific set of states had 859 fatal crashes between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. This is the highest number of fatal crashes for the first 15 days of any month from 2013-2017.

In fact, from 2013 to 2017, October was the most likely month for fatal crashes to occur in these states, with 3,330 total crashes. Of these fatal crashes, nearly one in three occupants involved were unbelted.

During that same period in these states, more fatal crashes occurred on Columbus Day weekend (517) than during the long weekends of Thanksgiving or Memorial Day. Columbus Day was the second deadliest holiday of 2017 for these states, trailing only Independence Day.

“With the release of preliminary 2017 FARS data, we noticed this troubling trend in this east-coast region,” said Stephanie Hancock, NHTSA regional administrator. “We know that speed, distraction and impairment are the root causes of most of the crashes in these states. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your number-one source of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired or distracted driver.”

“While we typically see an increase in crashes over Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving, we were surprised to learn that over the past five years, more fatal crashes occurred in these states on Columbus Day weekend than during those more highly-traveled holidays,” said Siwula. “That is why we are working with NHTSA and our state and local law enforcement partners to ensure you see plenty of enforcement during the holiday weekend. So please, buckle up and put the phone down.”

According to NHTSA, when worn correctly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities by 45 percent for front-seat vehicle occupants and by 60 percent for pickup truck, SUV and minivan occupants.

“Seat belts save lives,” said Hancock. “Everyone — front seat and back, child and adult — needs to remember to buckle up.”

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/kyhighwaysafety/ and www.kyhighwaysafety.com.