MURRAY – With two fatal collisions having already occurred on 12th Street this year, Murray Mayor Bob Rogers and Murray Police Chief Sam Bierds are urging drivers to practice caution, and above all, to keep their eyes on the road.
“I get questions and calls of concern from citizens about not only how heavy the traffic is, but also the speed at which they drive and the number of red lights that are being ignored,” Rogers said. “I thought I would ask the chief to give me a summary of the percentage of accidents in our city that occur on 12th. As you can see, it’s quite high.”
In a memo to Rogers, Bierds wrote, “12th Street is by far the most collision-prone roadway in the City of Murray. To date this year, Murray PD has investigated 359 vehicle collisions. 157 of those occurred on 12th Street, accounting for 43.73% of all collisions in the City of Murray. Both fatal collisions in Murray this year have been on 12th Street.”
The most recent crash claimed the life of 93-year-old Murray resident Durwood Bailey last Wednesday at the intersection of Poplar and South 12th streets. That two-vehicle collision is currently under investigation by the Murray Police Department.
The first traffic-related death on 12th Street this year occurred on April 10, when a pedestrian was fatally struck after leaving the Walgreens parking lot and crossing South 12th near the intersection with Main Street, according to Calloway County Coroner Ricky Garland. Garland said he was called that night to Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s emergency room, where he pronounced 59-year-old Kelly Aaron Stevens deceased. Garland said Stevens lived at the nearby Embassy Apartments.
Bierds said the primary cause of collisions in Murray is lack of attention. In 2023 to date, 224 collisions in Murray – including, but not limited to, 12th Street – were reportedly caused by inattention. Failure to yield the right of way was listed as a contributing human factor in 44 collisions, while misjudged clearance reportedly caused 36 collisions and distractions caused 18 collisions.
“It’s not all Murray residents; it’s people who work here, people who travel through here, trucks and different things,” Rogers said. “I’ve asked the chief to ramp up patrol of that corridor and see if we can’t cut down on the number of collisions. He indicated that the largest cause of most of those collisions had to do with inattentiveness or distractions, so they’re going to particularly watch for people texting or being on their phone while driving. The only way we can cut down the number of collisions is to be more careful (about) the people around us and to be defensive drivers.”
Rogers said he was personally a victim of inattentive driving on 12th Street a couple of years ago when a driver ran a red light.
“When that stoplight turns yellow, we need to slow down instead of speeding up,” Rogers said.
Bierds said drivers not only need to keep their eyes on the road, but should watch their speed closely because a high rate of speed intensifies the severity of a wreck.
“As the statistics bear out, speed is not the greatest contributor to collisions, but speeding does make what would normally be a no-injury collision more at risk to be an injury collision,” Bierds said. “We’re obviously going to watch speeding; that’s an easy enforcement for us to do, but distracted driving is another thing that we’re really looking at cracking down on.”
While it is more challenging to enforce Kentucky’s law against texting while driving, Bierds said highway safety grants have funded the team-up of a “spotter” and a “stopper” in the past.
“We’ve used that (method) for seatbelt enforcement and for cell phone enforcement, so we’re looking at starting that back up,” Bierds said. “That overtime is funded through state and federal government, and it’s been successful for us in the past, so we’re going to start that again, where one officer sits and calls in a vehicle to another officer. That way, you have a reliable witness in the form of a police officer (whose name) will go down on that citation as well.”
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, House Bill 415 was signed into law by former Gov. Steve Beshear in 2010 bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers 18 or older are allowed to use a GPS device and can use a phone “for reading, selecting or entering a telephone number or name” to make a call, KYTC said. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using any personal communication device while the vehicle is in motion and must stop the vehicle if they need to manually enter information into a GPS device.
“The cell phone law is challenging just because of the way it’s written, but we get creative in how we enforce that and how we look for (violations) and do what we can,” Bierds said. “The way it’s written, you can have your cell phone in your hand if you’re about to make a phone call or if you’re on the phone, but when (an officer is) just looking at an operator, we don’t really know exactly what they’re doing. That’s why the spotter system works, because you have a spotter who can focus a little bit more on what that driver is doing. ‘Well, clearly, you’re not making a call, you’re scrolling TikTok’ – which, believe it or not, is something people do behind the wheel.
“But really the most important thing is to get the message out to drivers in the city of Murray to take time, pay attention, focus on the task at hand and arrive at their destination safely. That would help out significantly. We can only do so much from the enforcement end, so I would rather people do what they’re supposed to do because it’s the right thing to do instead of doing what they’re supposed to do because they’re afraid they’re going to get a ticket.”