Tribune-Courier General Manager
PALMA – A series of crashes along U.S. Highway 68 in Marshall County in recent weeks have brought the hazards of travel along that stretch of roadway to the forefront of conversation among many. In a seven day period of time there was a fatal crash in Sharpe, a multiple injury accident in Briensburg and an injury accident in Aurora involving a motorcycle.
Crashes along the 28 mile stretch of highway from Sharpe to Aurora are nothing new, however. Statistics from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reveal 575 vehicle crashes during the five year period August 1, 2006 through August 2011. Of those, seven involved fatalities, 154 involved injuries and 414 resulted in property damage. On average, there is a crash on Highway 68 somewhere in Marshall County every 3.17 days.
Keith Todd, Public Information Officer with the cabinet, said it generally takes 3-5 years worth of data to notice a trend in crash areas.
“Looking at the map (of pinpointed crash sites) I think it might be a good idea for us to get with the Marshall County people and see if there is something we can do to improve safety,” he said. Todd said in other areas that have been identified as high crash sites, LED signs have been installed and increased patrols have been put into place.
Often times, said Todd, the intended fix will result in a different problem. “Guardrails, for example, can result in a driver bouncing off the structure and hitting a car head-on in traffic. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what the right fix is.”
Todd noted a cluster of accidents at the intersection of the Purchase Parkway and 68, but the map reveals there is no area along the highway immune to the increased possibility of an accident.
Todd said traffic volume plays a large role in the number of wrecks along 68. As a major thoroughfare across the county the traffic count on the highway is significant. Just west of the Purchase Parkway, the average number of vehicles per day is 7,700, in Draffenville it climbs to 14,533 and near the intersection of Big Bear Highway the count drops to about 4,800 cars per day.
As you begin to look at the cause of the crashes, there appears to be no single reason for the unusually large number of injury accidents. Instead, the causes include DUI, speed, deer, failure to negotiate curves, inattentiveness and distracted driving.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said that while the wrecks have involved people of all ages, he would advocate reintroducing driver’s education into the high school curriculum. He believes this would make a difference in terms of learning the basic rules of the road and stress the importance of attentiveness when behind the wheel.
Byars also said he plans to petition the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for a speed reduction in the Fairdealing area. He would like to see the speed reduced from 55 mph to 40 mph in the area around Fast Eddies and The Dollar General Store.
Byars would also like to see the speed reduced from Draffenville to Moors Camp Highway, another congested area, particularly during times of travel to and from the high school.
He said the process involves the Transportation Cabinet conducting a traffic study to determine the need before any such changes can be made. Byars said this is generally a lengthy process, but one he feels is important to pursue.
Byars also said he has told his officers there will be an increased focus on patrols along Highway 68 in the coming year, as funds from a highway safety grant become available. The grant reimburses the sheriff’s department for overtime and extra officers to put a priority on safety.
Todd noted travel on Interstate 24 and the Purchase Parkway is a safe alternative to travel along Highway 68. He said drivers are four times less likely to be involved in a crash on a four- lane divided highway than on a two-lane road.
“Anytime you have people turning and crossing opposing traffic you are more likely to have crashes and there are far fewer head-on collisions on a four-lane road,” he said.