Vehicle collisions on Johnson County roads are on the decline, according to data from Kentucky State Police, but the wrecks that are happening are producing more injuries and fatalities.
Data available through the KSP-maintained Kentucky Collision Analysis System shows there were 607 vehicle collisions in Johnson County in 2016, resulting in 164 injuries and two fatalities. In 2017, there were 550 vehicle collisions, including 142 resulting in injuries with three fatalities. However, in 2018, there were only 542 collisions, but they resulted in 168 injuries and five fatalities.
KSP data shows it took only through Oct. 31 in 2018 for wrecks on local roads to result in the same number of injured motorists and passengers, and more fatalities, than in all of 2017.
The injury and fatality rate, Paintsville Police Chief Mike Roe said, is inextricably linked to the use of restraint devices.
“People need to wear their seatbelts, and keep their children in car seats,” Roe said.
Of the crashes in Johnson County in 2018, KSP data shows 14 involved drug use, nine involved alcohol use and three involved falling asleep, whereas 220 involved “inattention,” with 17 listed as distracted driving and three listed specifically as involving a cell phone.
“Careless driving is a big factor in crashes,” Roe said. “Slow down, drive the speed limit, and pay attention on the highway.”
Johnson County’s new sheriff, Doug Saylor, said the problem is regional — and over the holidays, the region had multiple fatal wrecks in just the span of one week.
“So often we see people texting, and there is a statute that you can be cited for texting and driving,” Saylor said. “Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to prevent these. I don’t know what else we can do, other than getting more law enforcement on the road.”
Saylor said that from Dec. 31, when he took office, through the next week, Johnson County was under patrol 24/7, and seatbelt violations are among the issues his deputies are monitoring.
“Number one, it’s the law. Number two, it’s self-preservation,” Saylor said. “We’re going to be a proactive department, with the community in mind. If a kid loses a parent because of inattentive driving, it’s a lifetime, and they shouldn’t have to deal with this.”