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Traffic deaths in Louisville hit a five-year low in 2018, but officials worry such deaths are back on the rise. New city data shows that accidents on local roadways killed 62 people so far this year — 13 more people than the same time frame in 2018. 

Much of the increase involved motorcyclists or pedestrians, according to the Louisville “Road to Zero” Coalition, an advisory committee of state and local representatives who report to Louisville’s Public Works department and work to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. The coalition reviewed the new Kentucky State Police crash data last week. Deaths on the interstates are not included in that data.

Dirk Gowin, the Transportation Engineering Manager for Metro Public Works, believes that distracted driving and larger vehicles are partly to blame for the increase.

“We’ve all got to do a better job paying attention out there,” Gowin said. “I’m seeing too much red-light running. I’m seeing too much speed out there. Everyone, I want you to drive like it was your neighborhood.”

Road To Zero Commission Agenda Data

Road To Zero Commission Agenda Data provided by Dirk Gowin

Last year, Louisville recorded 63 non-interstate deaths — the lowest number since 2012, when 54 people died in such accidents. But overall, the number of pedestrians killed has increased. Pedestrians account for about 30 percent of this year’s deaths, approaching last year’s record high of 36 percent. The increase mirrors a national trend detailed in the Governors Highway Safety Association report, which found that the number of pedestrian deaths reached a 28-year high last year.

Road To Zero Commission Jefferson County Roadway Deaths Data

Road To Zero Commission Data provided by Dirk Gowin

Gowin said everyone can reduce traffic fatalities by wearing reflective tape when walking at night, or by paying more attention when driving. But he said the city plans to develop its own additional strategies when it finishes a $300,000 study in December, commissioned by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Consultant Palmer Engineering was contracted to conduct the study, which will include analysis of five years of Jefferson County crash data to find trends and common crash areas. Gowin said officials can use those results to pinpoint problem areas, ask for Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, and make safety improvements to reduce roadway fatalities.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a whole lot of funding available to us,” Gowin said. “We want to put our resources where we have the most benefit. This study’s going to do that for us.”

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.