Since enacting a primary seat belt law last January there have been fewer fatalities statewide, according to Kentucky State Police. There were 852 fatality accidents across the state this year, down from 913 in 2006.

In the seven counties that make up the Bowling Green Post 3 area which includes Barren County, troopers saw a decrease in vehicle-related deaths. There were 66 fatalities in 2006, compared with only 45 the following year in 2007.

“We’ve seen a substantial drop in the number of fatalities,” Kentucky State Police Trooper Todd Holder, public affairs officer for the Bowling Green Post said. The law went into effect January 1, 2007 with enforcement beginning in July following a six-month grace period to allow motorists time to get used to the new law.

“Everybody knew the primary seat belt law was coming,” Holder said, referring to the six-month period before enforcement began.

As a secondary seat belt law state motorists could only be stopped for a separate traffic violation and issued a seat belt citation in conjunction with another ticket. Under the new law, police do not need any other traffic infractions in order to stop someone for failure to wear a seat belt. Motorists who are ticketed must pay a $25 fine.

“We were happy to see it,” said Holder. He said state police are pleased by the decrease in fatalities and lobbied hard for Kentucky legislators to pass a primary seat belt law.

Troopers and other first responders on the front lines at accident scenes know the importance of buckling up, he said. Statistics show wearing a seat belt can mean the difference between living and dying. “We see it time after time,” Holder said.

Kentucky has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to children under 40 inches not in a child safety seat, he continued, saying that state police would like to see the current law changed to address the inequity of having a primary seat belt law, but no helmet law for motorcyclists.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” according to Holder. State law used to require both drivers and passengers riding on a motorcycle wear a helmet. That law was repealed in 1998. During a five year period from 2002 to 2006 the number of motorcycle related deaths have increased sharply, say police.

“We’ve had a significant increase in the number of fatalities involving motorcycles,” Holder said, but he is unsure if the increase in deaths is related to the sport’s surging popularity or repeal of the helmet law.

KSP will continue speaking to the Kentucky General Assembly each year and support the passage of a helmet law, he said.

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