Don’t Text #Just Drive

We are including the information below as one of our safety blogs - this important initiative just began and is focused on reducing texting and driving. We hope you join this vital safety effort as well as participate in this spirited competition between Kansas universities. A video news conference featuring state, business and university student leaders speaking on Don’t Text #Just Drive is available at

 Pledge contest focuses on no texting while driving
Kansas Commissioner of Insurance Ken Selzer, center, and other officials
speak at a news conference kicking off the Don't Text #Just Drive campaign.

Students and supporters of seven Kansas universities can advocate for friendly competition this fall while challenging themselves and others to stop texting and driving.

The Kansas Insurance Department, insurance companies and governmental sponsors have created the “Don’t Text #Just Drive” campaign to get university students and supporters to pledge to stop texting while driving.  “We think this is a great way to promote a worthy goal of saving lives,” said Ken Selzer, CPA, Kansas Commissioner of Insurance. “You pledge to not text and drive, you pick your school and you cast your vote. Alumni, supporters and students of these Kansas schools show their support for the campaign and participate in a friendly competition at the same time.”

Supporters of each participating university will be able to take the pledge two ways: Online or by text messaging. The number of pledges each school receives will be compared to its official fall 2016 enrollment to calculate a percentage. Results will be tabulated and the winner announced during university athletic contests this fall and winter.

Participating schools are - University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University, Washburn University and Emporia State University.

Voting began this week and ends Nov. 22. Pledge votes can be cast by texting 50555 and choosing one of the school keywords: KU, Wildcat, Shocker, Tiger, Gorilla, Ichabod, or Hornet. Voters can also go online at More information about the campaign can be found at

Kendall Schoenekase, Miss Kansas 2016, is promoting the campaign as well. She has chosen “Stay Alive, Don’t Text and Drive” as her campaign issue during her reign as Miss Kansas. (Kendall is also participating in the safety blog series and will be featured next Monday, Sept. 26.)

On the other end of the radio

By Nicole Ascher
     One calm night, while working in the Kansas Highway Patrol dispatch center, we received a call from OnStar advising of a crash that just occurred involving a semi and a van.  A young mother who was not wearing her seat belt was distracted by talking on her cell phone. 
     She went left of center, left the roadway, went across the median and struck a semi.  It took troopers 20 minutes to arrive and they advised of one confirmed fatality.  It took another 20 minutes for the troopers to give a tag and ask for dispatch to locate a driver’s license photo for identification purposes. 
     Just as we pulled up the photo, the victim’s mother called in and advised that her daughter’s husband called her, and told her he was on the phone with the victim when she screamed and the cell phone disconnected. Once the family heard about the accident on the interstate, the victim’s mother and young child insisted on responding to the scene, to make sure her daughter was okay. The dispatcher told the mother to take the child home and she would have a trooper respond to her house to let her know what happened. Troopers were busy working the scene so dispatch attempted to get a chaplain to go to the mother’s residence. 
     The mother called the Kansas Highway Patrol dispatch center multiple times and the husband called the local dispatch multiple times.  An hour later, troopers were able to identify the victim from the driver’s license photo and responded with the chaplain to notify her mother and husband.  We do our very best to calm our callers and let them know that help is on the way. The dispatcher thought of her mom and wanted to tell her over the phone. 
     Death is one of the hardest things to deal with and families deserve to be treated with respect, passion, and professional comfort. Our hope is to give a victim’s family the gift of having someone to hold on to, or to make a phone call for someone who can come to the home and provide emotional support. During times like this, dispatchers feel helpless. Without visual information from the scene, we are left to our own imagination in an attempt to figure out what happened. Our main focus is helping people.  We do this as a team and help our fellow dispatchers when they are busy. An incident like this will stick with the dispatchers for several days. 
     Dispatchers experience trauma indirectly and with a high level of distress during and following an incident like this. One of the hardest things about being a dispatcher is the lack of closure and not knowing what happens after calls are dispatched.  At times this is a thankless job, but at the end of the day…you know you did your best and it is worth it.
Nicole Ascher is a Communication Specialist Supervisor with the Kansas Highway Patrol

Trauma in the corn fields

John LaGesse, a former BNSF conductor, shares this story told to him by a co-worker from a few years ago.

     On a bright, late-summer day, a local train was rolling down the tracks near Topeka, Kansas, in between two tall corn fields. This time of the year, the corn is very tall, perhaps 10 feet or more, so for a train crew it was like being in a tunnel where your vision is very limited.
     The train approached a farmer’s crossing – a private crossing that farmers use to get from one field to another. At private crossings, trains are not required to sound their whistles. The train was about 250 feet from the crossing, when suddenly a small pack of dogs runs across the track. This grabs the crew’s attention; something unusual is going on. Suddenly, a small girl on a tricycle appears pedaling across the tracks. Everyone in the cab gasps, but she is almost across the tracks when the rear wheel of the tricycle falls between the tracks and the planks and she is stuck.  
     Now, action in the cab explodes. The engineer places the train into emergency and blasts on his whistle. The brakeman runs out the front door of the cab onto the deck screaming at the girl to run. After a couple of seconds, she frees her tricycle and pedals off the tracks. The brakeman watches her pedal into the clear and then his head snaps to the left to see where she had come from. Now in slow motion, as his brain had sped up due to the adrenaline in his system, he sees a car sitting near the tracks with a woman at the wheel whose eyes were as big as saucers and she was obviously screaming.  But, more profoundly, next to her in the front seat is a child carrier with an infant in it and the infant’s mouth seemed huge as it was screaming as well, terrified by its mothers cries.
     The train finally slides to a stop, well past the crossing. There was no way they would have stopped in time. The brakeman sits down and is shaking so badly, he cannot light his cigarette. As a finale, the engineer walks out the back door of the engine onto the catwalk and vomits.
     No one was physically injured in this incident, but the trauma for all involved would last for a lifetime. This is why crossing safety is so important. Saving lives is just part of it –  preventing life-changing, horrible events is another.