Local News

A Pontiac Bonneville on Tuesday night was heading northbound on Taylor Boulevard behind a truck. The truck turned left, and so did the Bonneville—right into a motorcycle heading south on Taylor.

Louisville Metro Police believe the truck obstructed the view of the Bonneville’s driver.

The motorcycle driver suffered a serious head injury, police said.

A passenger on the motorcycle died at University Hospital.

That woman is the latest traffic death in Louisville—and traffic deaths in the county have dramatically spiked since 2012.

So far, 41 people have died on Jefferson County road in 2013, compared to 28 during the same time period in 2012—a 46-percent spike, according to Kentucky State Police statistics.

Local law enforcement are alarmed because traffic fatalities are down statewide—and the overall number of accidents has declined in Louisville, Lt. Joe Seelye, commander of the LMPD Traffic Unit.

“Unfortunately when they’re crashing, they’re really crashing,” said Seelye, speaking to me before this latest fatal accident.

“And when you look at the maps, the fatal accidents are happening everywhere. When you look at crime sometimes you can kind of pinpoint and hone in on certain areas; accidents are one of those things that touch anybody.”

This poses a challenge for LMPD. Last year, police were able to concentrate on specific roadways where serious accidents were happening. Aside from sections of Seventh Street Road, LMPD hasn’t been able to hone in on specific places this year.

Seatbelt usage and drunk driving seem to be the leading issues driving the spike in fatalities, Seelye said.

“If we can just do some little things with designated drivers and seatbelt usage, obviously and driver inattention and speed, we would reduce our numbers significantly,” Seelye said.

(Bear in mind, Seelye is only speaking for what’s happening in LMPD’s jurisdiction—it’s by far the greatest number, but some suburban police departments also investigate traffic fatalities. But, the 41 traffic deaths statistic is for the entire Jefferson County, regardless of jurisdiction.)

This year’s 41 traffic deaths is the greatest number since 2005, when 42 people died on Jefferson County roads.

Here’s the long view from Kentucky State Police’s statistics:

Traffic Fatalities in Jefferson County

And, for good measure, here are statistics for traffic injuries in Jefferson County.

Again, 2005 was a very bad year. But this year, traffic injuries have decreased compared to last year.

Take a look:

Traffic Accidents in Jefferson County

People should wear seatbelts, Seelye said. People should arrange for designated drivers if they’re drinking—or have some means of getting home that don’t involve driving. Texting while driving and other forms of driver inattention are issues, too. 

Traffic deaths this year have happened in Jefferson County at all times of day, everyday of the week, Seelye said, noting the misconception that fatal accidents happen mostly at night and on weekends.

The seatbelt is the easiest step people can take for protection—Seelye said his officers have investigated wrecks where a person who died may have survived if they’d buckled up.

“Ultimately, I just think we do not have the seat belt usage as much as we should,” he said.