Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office recently announced that he has signed an executive order creating a new Department of Transportation Safety within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), the state's agency overseeing transportation statewide.
The new department will oversee the state's strategic highway safety plan, as part of the continuing effort to curb road deaths and injuries. It will also review highway safety data, identify major causes of fatalities and injuries and develop and implement measures to educate and protect citizens. The department also will provide continuous highway-condition and weather information.
"Highway safety has always been one of the highest priorities of this administration," Fletcher said. "This year we have succeeded in getting a primary seatbelt law, a quick-clearance law and an expanded graduated driver's license program ... With this commitment to saving lives and preventing injuries on our roads, it makes sense to channel the KYTC's efforts through the new Department of Transportation Safety."
"Primary" seat-belt laws allow law-enforcement officials to treat non-use of a seatbelt as an offense a driver can be stopped and ticketed for. So-called "secondary" laws require another offense to be committed as the grounds for a stop, and only after such a stop can the halting officer address the seat-belt violation. The new primary law is expected to save 60 or more lives on Kentucky's highways in its first year on the books.
Quick-clearance laws require drivers to move their vehicles out of the trafficked roadway following a non-injury accident, preventing further traffic tie-ups and potentially unsafe conditions. Graduated driver's license programs expand road privileges to new drivers gradually as they gain training and experience behind the wheel. Experts say Kentucky's expanded laws in that area are expected to save 20 or more lives a year.
"Highway safety is a shared responsibility," said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert. "The Department of Transportation Safety will provide increased coordination, communication and cooperation among all of our safety advocates, and will provide a boost to our efforts to reduce preventable tragedies on Kentucky's roadways."
In 2005, law-enforcement officials in the state reported 129,183 crashes, 985 fatalities and 43,488 injuries.