KENTUCKY (KFVS) - Highway fatalities in Kentucky increased last year according to the recently released official 2016 highway fatality count from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) and Kentucky State Police (KSP).
There were 834 fatalities in 2016, up from 761 in 2015.
"We are greatly concerned with the number of people who lost their lives on our roadways," KOHS Executive Director Dr. Noelle Hunter said . "These figures are unacceptable to us and they should be unacceptable to every driver – every person -- in our state. We all have to be much more vigilant about personal safety and personal responsibility behind the wheel if we are going to reverse this trend."
Of the 834 highway fatalities last year in Kentucky, 50.9% were not wearing a seat belt and 16.8 percent involved alcohol.
More than 36% involved speeding or aggressive drivers and 23% involved driver distraction.
Motorcyclists accounted for 90 fatalities, with 60% not wearing helmets.
"With growing social acceptance of dangerous driving behaviors, such as texting while driving, speeding, driving impaired and not wearing a seat belt, we face a great challenge," Dr. Hunter said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 90% of crashes are due to human error.
The highway fatality increase is not an issue solely for Kentucky.
According to the National Safety Council, preliminary estimates indicate motor vehicle deaths totaled 40,200 last year, up 6% from 2015 and the first time fatalities exceeded 40,000 since 2007.
"While national fatality rates are similar to ours, this is not a case in which we should follow the national trend," Dr. Hunter said. "We have to buckle up, put the cell phones down and drive like our lives depend on it – because they do."
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that seat belts, when worn correctly, reduce the risk of fatalities by 45% for front-seat vehicle occupants and by 60 percent for pickup truck, SUV and minivan occupants.
Also according to NHTSA, regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect against and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.
So far in 2017, preliminary numbers indicate there have been 210 roadway fatalities – down from 226 compared to the same time last year.
Kentucky's history of highway fatalities: