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Memorial Day travelers advised to slow down, buckle up

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Holiday weekend calls for extra caution

By The Staff

FRANKFORT - A travel weekend widely considered the beginning of summer starts, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety reminds motorists to Drive Smart.

According to AAA, an estimated 32.4 million people will be hitting the roads this Memorial Day weekend - a half million more than in 2008.

That means drivers need to be extremely cautious, said Chuck Geveden, director of the Office of Highway Safety (OHS). “With more cars on the roads, motorists more than ever need to follow safe driving practices. That means, among other things, wear your seatbelt, don’t drink and drive, follow the speed limit, and stay alert.”

According to OHS, there were five fatalities in Kentucky during the 2008 Memorial holiday period: one motorcyclist, one pedestrian, and three motorists - two of whom were not wearing seatbelts. One fatality involved alcohol.

So far this year, 291 fatalities have occurred on Kentucky roadways, seven more than at the same point in 2008.

The Click It or Ticket campaign, coordinated by OHS, will be in full swing throughout the holiday weekend and encourages motorists wear seatbelts. “Officers will still be out watching for motorists who are not wearing their seatbelts, and will be issuing tickets to those not obeying the law,” Geveden said. The campaign runs through May 31.

When worn correctly, seat belts are proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat occupants by 45 percent - and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans. Kentucky remains near the bottom nationally for seat belt usage, at 73 percent. Of the 826 fatalities in Kentucky in 2008, 55 percent were not buckled up. If Kentucky were to raise seatbelt usage to the national average of 83 percent, it would prevent 51 fatalities, 589 serious injuries, and $134 million in injury-related economic impacts.

In addition to wearing a seat belt, the OHS suggests the following safe driving tips, especially during the busy holiday travel season:

* Look ahead. Scan the road and establish a “visual lead” of 20 to 30 seconds ahead.

* Keep a “Space Cushion.” Maintain a three- to four-second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.

* Signal your intentions. When turning, use a signal at least 100 feet before the turn.

* Be aware. Check rearview and side mirrors approximately 10 times per minute and speedometer approximately once per minute.

* Use your headlights. Driving with your headlights on doubles the distance at which you can be seen.

* Adjust your speed on wet roadways.  If the road is wet, reduce speed by five to 10 miles an hour. AVOID USING CRUISE CONTROL IN WET CONDITIONS!

* Adjust to visibility restrictions. In heavy rain or thick fog you may not see more than 100 feet ahead. To help, adjust your speed and use low-beam headlights.

* Limit cell phone usage. Using a cell phone while driving increases your chance of a crash by 400 percent.

* Buckle that child! Always properly restrain children in the back seat.

* Never drink and drive!

Travelers can obtain the latest roadway conditions by visiting www.511.ky.gov or dialing 511. For additional highway safety tips go to www.highwaysafety.ky.gov.