Lexington leaders from city government, education and business gathered Monday evening to announce their goal of obtaining accreditation from the National Safety Council as a "safe community."
The intent of accreditation is a reduction of car crashes, overdose deaths and suicides in Fayette County, officials said.
Unintended injuries, including car crashes and overdoses, are the leading cause of death for people younger than 45 in Lexington, according to the council's Safe Communities America program.
"People often think about safety as what makes the six o'clock news," Mayor Jim Gray said.
Lexington and the University of Kentucky are seeking to join Madison County and Murray State University on the list of certified safe communities. Louisville and Jessamine County also are applying for accreditation, and some officials kept with the tradition of friendly rivalry by emphasizing the importance of receiving accreditation before Louisville does.
Officials with UK and Lexington said they plan to submit an application soon to the National Safety Council outlining their safety programs and goals to improve safety.
The goal is not just to reduce accidental deaths, but to unite police, businesses and public officials around making Lexington safer.
"We know injury prevention works. It saves money, it saves lives," said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "And the high level of commitment from community leaders and political officials is critical."
Hersman is a former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board and led the agency's investigation of the 2006 crash of Comair Flight 5191 at Blue Grass Airport, which killed 49 people.
Herbert A. Miller, president of Columbia Gas of Kentucky and chairman of Commerce Lexington, said bringing people with different interests together will help spur new ways of creating a safer city.
"There is no such thing as 'your side of the canoe is leaking,'" said Rice Leach, commissioner of the Fayette County Health Department. "Health and safety are a community affair. You can't do it by yourself."
From 2011 to 2013, Lexington had more than 82,000 emergency room visits, and Kentucky is the eighth-worst state for accidental deaths, Miller said.
Once the city submits a letter of intent to the National Safety Council, it will have one year to show that it should be designated as a safe community.
The process has yielded results in other communities, according to backers of the program.
In Madison County, for example, anonymous drug drop-off programs have collected thousands of pounds of drugs, mainly pain pills, said Lloyd Jordison, coordinator of the Madison County Safety Coalition.
Being a "safe community" has united the county's various government groups and has allowed it to apply for federal and state grants, Jordison said.
"(The accreditation) has pulled us together in a lot of ways," Jordison said. "Everybody wants to be able to demonstrate they're working collaboratively. This is a process that lets us do that."