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Grassroots program reduces crashes, fatalities, in Pike Co., KY

Pike County's 'Drive Down' initiative - coordinated with radio campaign - credited with reducing vehicle crashes, injuries, fatalities in Pike County. Gov. Beshear announces national award for grassroots program to curb crashes in an eastern Kentucky county

By Kerri Richardson and Terry Sebastian
From Gov. Steve Beshear's Communications Office

FRANKFORT, KY - Gov. Steve Beshear announced Tuesday, September 3, 2013, that a grassroots program to reduce the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities in one eastern Kentucky county has earned a national safety award. The "Drive Down" program is a concerted and coordinated effort to reduce highway crash rates in Pike County.

Kentucky's Drive Down team was recently honored at the Governors Highway Safety Association 2013 highway safety awards with the Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award for outstanding highway safety accomplishment. The national award was one of five presented in San Diego to recognize programs that focused on the nation's most pressing roadway safety issues.

"Keeping those who drive on our highways and roads safe is a top priority of my administration," Gov. Beshear said. "Innovative programs such as Drive Down are among the many ways we, as a Commonwealth, are making a difference in achieving this goal."

"It is an honor to have such hard work recognized on a national stage," said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. "The Kentucky Drive Down team has achieved great success with this initiative. It's an example of people with great talents coming together for the good of a community."

Drive Down, which was the result of a challenge presented by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety to Kentucky's Highway District 12, which includes Pike County, kicked off in April 2012. It developed into a collaborative effort between East Kentucky Broadcasting (EKB) and the Pike County Highway Safety Team. Pike County - the state's largest county by area - consistently ranked among the state's top three for property damage, serious injury and fatal crashes, as well as low seat belt and child safety seat use. The ranking was disproportionate to the county's population, number of registered vehicles and miles traveled, making it one of the most hazardous places to be on the road in Kentucky.

Tasked with improving those numbers and educating drivers, the Drive Down team began a process of researching reasons behind crashes and educating drivers on their responsibilities for safer roadways. The research shaped key strategies which focused on the importance of use of proper restraints by all motor vehicle occupants, with a particular emphasis on the selection and installation of child safety seats.

The keystone of the Drive Down campaign was its partnership with EKB, which owns and operates 13 radio stations serving the citizens of Pike and surrounding counties. The station ran an aggressive schedule of locally written and produced public service announcements. It also provided "good tickets" for use by police in conjunction with high visibility enforcement activities. Motorists and passengers "caught" properly restrained received a ticket that entered them in a drawing to win prizes, including Bluetooth devices and iPhones.

The Drive Down team also worked with the Pike County attorney to address the county's dismal moving violation conviction rate, which averaged just 10 percent. Citing the work of the Pike County Highway Safety Team and Drive Down, the Pike County attorney entered a motion in District Court requiring all moving violations to be heard in open court. That has resulted in an uptick in the issuance of moving violations. Additionally, motorists are being held accountable for their unsafe behaviors.

The education initiative is credited for a nearly 23 percent reduction in traffic fatalities in Pike County and a more than 8 percent reduction in injuries since it began in 2012. It is the largest improvement for one county since the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety began keeping records.

This story was posted on 2013-09-04 01:26:45
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