Top 10 reasons why people crash on Kentucky's roadways

Each year, there are thousands of collisions and hundreds of lives lost on Kentucky’s roadways. Tragically, many of these crashes could have been avoided. When you’re behind the wheel, please do your part to keep Kentucky safe.

Kentucky crash factors blog
Read on to find out the top 10 contributing factors in crashes on Kentucky’s roadways over the span of a year, according to Kentucky State Police traffic collision reports. 

Each year, there are thousands of collisions and hundreds of lives lost on Kentucky’s roadways. These lives are not merely statistics; they are Kentucky’s parents, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, and friends.

Motor vehicle deaths are often ranked among the top causes of all fatalities in the U.S., especially among young people. Many of these crashes were preventable, and we all can play a part in helping to make our roads safer. According to the most recent traffic collisions report from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS), these were the top 10 contributing factors in crashes on Kentucky’s roadways over the span of a year:

  1. Disregard traffic control
    Number of crashes: 3,962
    Number of fatalities: 20

    Intersections are inherently dangerous, but even more so when drivers disregard the signals. On a national level, red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2018, 846 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes that involved red light running. About half of those killed were pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles who were hit by the red light runners.
  2. Too fast for condition
    Number of crashes: 5,232
    Number of fatalities: 44

    Got a need for speed? Think again. According to IIHS, on a national level, more than 9,000 deaths — 26 percent of all crash fatalities — occurred in speed-related crashes in 2018. High speeds make a crash more likely because it takes longer to stop or slow down. They also make collisions more deadly because crash energy increases exponentially as speeds go up.   
  3. Distraction
    Number of crashes: 6,265
    Number of fatalities: 4

    Today, the number of cellphones in the U.S. surpasses the country’s population. We all know how prevalent this issue is, but many road safety organizations argue that the numbers are significantly underreported. Oftentimes, drivers do not admit to cell phone usage while behind the wheel, making it difficult to cite on official crash reports, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). 

    In Kentucky, it is illegal to text and drive. Remember, two eyes on the road beats six feet underground.
  4. Animal action
    Number of crashes: 6,858
    Number of fatalities: 7

    Keep an eye out for environmental factors on our roadways, especially in rural areas. Deer, pets, and farm animals can easily venture into traffic. In Kentucky, the likelihood of striking a deer while driving greatly increases each fall as our state’s white-tailed deer population hits peak mating season.
  5. Following too close
    Number of crashes: 8,742
    Number of fatalities: 6

    Tailgating is a widespread problem only exacerbated by the rise in smartphone usage (now, people are paying less attention while tailgating – a lethal combination). In recent years, however, many vehicle manufacturers are equipping models with automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. These systems have been quite effective in preventing rear-end accidents. According to a recent study by IIHS, “systems with automatic braking reduce rear-end crashes by about 40 percent on average, while forward collision warning alone cuts them by 23 percent.”

    Regardless of new technology, tailgating can be deadly. Be sure to leave a safe following distance between yourself and the car in front of you.
  6. Misjudged clearance
    Number of crashes: 9,777
    Number of fatalities: 13

    Ever uncertain if you can squeeze across that one-lane bridge, through that parking spot or under that overpass? Don’t risk it! Estimating clearances in a vehicle is a perilous behavior that can lead to personal injury, property damage, and, as the statistics above show, even death. 
  7. Failure to yield
    Number of crashes: 14,983
    Number of fatalities: 63

    Kentucky’s tally with this crash frequency is right on par with national statistics. In a 2017 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “failure to yield to right of way” was the fourth deadliest driver behavior, contributing to 3,711 deaths across the U.S.
  8. Slippery surfaces
    Number of crashes: 15,541
    Number of fatalities: 77

    Adverse environmental conditions can play a role in one’s driving skill, especially in Kentucky where rain, snow, and sleet are common types of precipitation. It’s best to slow your speed and exhibit extra caution in wet conditions.
  9. Not under control
    Numbers of crashes: 17,878
    Number of deaths: 196

    This factor is listed on a police report when the driver loses control of the vehicle with no justifiable explanation. This statistic, while still obviously quite deadly, has likely improved in recent years, as all vehicle models manufactured after 2012 are equipped with “Electronic Stability Control” (ESC) systems aimed at keeping drivers from losing control.

    According to the NHTSA, “ESC systems continuously monitor several vehicle factors in order to predict impending loss of control due to excessive speed, excessive lateral acceleration, or insufficient traction. When the system predicts a loss of control it applies braking force to one or more wheels or reduces engine output to slow the vehicle ... ESC systems are able to act quickly and discreetly, and often the driver is unaware that the system has intervened to prevent a loss of stability or control."
  10. Driver inattention
    Number of crashes: 49,743
    Number of deaths: 123

    This factor was listed in more than a third of Kentucky’s roadway crashes, making it the most common contributor to accidents in our state. Driver inattention is a huge problem nationwide and can come in many forms. According to the NHTSA, it is defined as “any point in time that a driver engages in a secondary task, exhibits symptoms of moderate to severe drowsiness, or looks away from the forward roadway.” This can include anything from checking the speedometer, checking out the scenery, talking to a passenger, using a handheld device, or eating.

Tragically, many of these crashes could have been avoided. When you’re behind the wheel, please do your part to keep Kentucky safe. Buckle up, be alert and observant, and save the texting for another time.

* The numbers used in this article were collected by collision reports submitted to the Kentucky State Police Records Branch. A variety of factors and conditions can contribute to a collision. These factors cover a variety of possible interferences, including environmental, vehicular, and human factors. Police officers may indicate up to three driver factors for each driver, two vehicular factors for each vehicle, and up to two environmental factors for each collision. 

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