Fewer drivers traveled Kentucky’s roadways in 2020 than in years past. While some might think this translates to fewer fatalities, research shows the opposite is true. Traffic deaths rose across Kentucky in 2020, raising questions about what may have contributed to the uptick.
Per WKDZ Radio, 778 traffic deaths occurred in Kentucky in 2020 and 732 in 2019, revealing a 5% increase from one year to the next. Many of the fatal crashes shared similar elements.
Some believe fatalities rose because fewer motorists shared the roads rather than in spite of the sparser traffic. Many drivers seemed more inclined to take risks behind the wheel — perhaps perceiving the empty roads as an opportunity to have some fun. Many of 2020’s fatal crashes also involved alcohol, aggression or driver distraction.
In fact, alcohol was the highest cause of deaths: More than 57% of Kentucky’s fatal 2020 crashes involved alcohol. Drivers who were speeding or driving aggressively contributed to another 32% of crashes, while almost 20% of fatal car wrecks involved motorists who drove distracted.
Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities
While 2020 was a dangerous year for those driving and riding in passenger vehicles, it was also deadly for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Of the 778 traffic fatalities seen in Kentucky in 2020, 74 involved motorcyclists. Another 97 involved either pedestrians or cyclists.
The governor’s office has plans to implement “historic safety improvements” in 2021 and plans to focus on areas of particular concern. More specifically, the office is focusing on reducing the number of motorists who drive aggressively, distracted or under the influence.