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Safer Highways in KY, but Not Safe Enough

PHOTO:  2013 was the safest on Kentucky's highways in 64 years but a trauma surgeon says many drivers still don't embrace the need to buckle up. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: 2013 was the safest on Kentucky's highways in 64 years but a trauma surgeon says many drivers still don't embrace the need to buckle up. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
May 1, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky's highway death toll reached a 64-year low in 2013, but safety experts say warnings to "buckle up" and "wear your helmet" are still not resonating with many Kentuckians.

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety says there were 638 fatalities last year.

Dr. Andrew Bernard, a UK HealthCare trauma surgeon, says that's huge progress, but unfortunately death often has to hit close to home for some to change their behavior.

"And that's the tragedy of it is that so many people say, 'I wish I had known,’” he relates. “‘I wish somebody had told me,' or 'I wish I had, I wish I had worn my seat belt,' or 'I wish I had told them to put their kid in a booster seat.'"

Even though Kentucky has a seat-belt law, more than half of those who died in motor vehicle crashes last year (51 percent, 245 of 483) were not buckled up.

Bernard says people are 25 times more likely to survive an accident if they are wearing a seat belt.

He says some patients who were not buckled up but survived tell him they would have died if they had been wearing a seat belt.

"I guess it's conceivable,” he concedes. “I've got to tell you, in 10 years of doing trauma care here at UK in a big, busy center, I've never seen a case like that.

“But, what I have seen is hundreds, thousands of patients who end up in front of me and on our operating table because they weren't wearing their seat belt."

Two thirds of the 79 motorcyclists who died last year were not wearing a helmet. Kentucky does not have a helmet law.

Bernard says lawmakers need to see that as a public health problem.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY