Stay Off! Stay Away! Stay Alive!

By Darlene Osterhaus
Each day when people drive to work, most don’t think to themselves, ”I hope I don’t kill someone today!” Locomotive engineers have to think that every working day Someplace in the United States approximately every 2 hours a collision occurs between a train and a vehicle, or a train and a pedestrian.
Some engineers are not able to handle the images and memories of what happened during these events and depart their railroad careers The media, of course, always tells the story about the person injured or killed What about the train crew? They must live forever with the harsh memories of a situation they had no control over.
I know a locomotive engineer that has worked for years for a railroad and has had several collisions with cars, trucks, a farm tractor, and a pedestrian All but one was a fatality He became involved with Operation Lifesaver (OL) to educate the public on the dangers of being around trains--the railroad’s private property He states, “The more incidents we can be prevented, the safer your communities will be, and at the same time reduce the tragic memories for my fellow co-workers.”
Imagine yourself in the engineer’s seat--you apply the brakes to keep from hitting someone or something--your heart skips a beat--it takes your breath away! Imagine that this drags out for more than a mile--can you hold your breath that long?
You hope for the best but expect the worst The train stops and you walk back to that location You never forget every sense that went through your mind You recall details of each collision as you travel the same tracks on your route.
There are incidents where trains and vehicles collide and the driver or passengers manage to survive. Those individuals have one common factor: They were all wearing seatbelts, children were in car seats, air bags deployed, and it was not a direct impact from the train The majority of railroad incidents are preventable if you are simply more aware of your surroundings You are 20 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than one involving another motor vehicle.
The biggest factor in the devastation of the collision is the weight of the train, not the speed Remember, comparing a train to a car is the same as comparing your car to a soda pop can; both pairs exhibit the same weight ratio of 4,000 to 1. Imagine an average college football player standing in the middle of the street and trying to tackle a dump truck. All locomotive engineers desire that you never meet “by accident.”
Please don’t become a statistic. In 2008, Kansas Operation Lifesaver statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration ( were:
Crossing Crashes: 44 crashes, 9 fatalities, 14 injuries
Trespass Incidents: 13 incidents, 4 fatalities, and 9 injuries
 A total of 13 people died, changing the lives of family and friends forever They are all missed.
Operation Lifesaver ( is a nonprofit, public education and outreach organization dedicated to eliminating death and injury at railroad crossings and rights-of-way. Being a safe driver is common sense ( The Kansas Operation Lifesaver presenters give FREE presentations to any age group; to schedule, call (785) 296-7121 or email: Remember that “Any Time Is Train Time!” so “Always Expect A Train!”

Darlene Osterhaus is the Executive Director for Kansas Operation Lifesaver, Inc. 

On July 4th, 2008 our family of 11 was struck by a drunk driver as we headed home from a fun-filled evening at the Star-lite Drive-In

by Jamie Wohlgemuth
Our family is a bit unique because we have nine children ranging from age ten to five. Our children have come to our family both the old fashioned way and through the miracle of adoption. They are undoubtedly precious gifts from God that we cherish dearly.
At the drive-in, I clearly remember the children's excitement about watching fireworks in the distant night sky. We snuggled with one another on the air mattresses we brought and were pretty gooey from the many bags of cotton candy that were devoured. Giggles, snuggles, sticky kisses....what more could a Mom ask for? Of course, many of the children fell asleep and had to be tucked into their seats by their Dad. As always, we made sure everyone was secure in their car seat or seat belt--a decision that ultimately saved all nine of their little lives.
As we were driving home on K-42, a full-sized pickup pulled out in front of us and turned into us hitting us head-on. The impact was like nothing I've ever felt before I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. The pain was excruciating. Then I could hear my children screaming.
I cannot begin to describe the terror of that moment, not knowing what I would find when I eventually forced myself to turn around. Trey had a broken nose and blood was everywhere. AubreyAnna was screaming because her back hurt. Most of the children were stunned by the impact and in shock from the trauma. Fortunately for us, God sent angels in the form of off-duty EMT's who were there immediately as the crash took place.
 The police and ambulances arrived quickly and began the arduous task of removing each child from the mangled SUV. Watching as my family was lined up on spine boards along the highway is seared into my memory. An officer was amazed that there were no fatalities that night. He credited this to the fact that safety belts and carseats were properly used. The driver of the truck, we later discovered, was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from his vehicle. He lost an arm and suffered severe injuries.
Although we incurred some serious injuries from this incident and are still, more than a year later, dealing with the physical ramifications of someone else's decision to drive drunk, we are all here to support one another through it. I cannot and will not think of the alternative outcome had we all not been properly secured in the vehicle. My family is whole and wholeheartedly encourages others to please buckle-up and drive responsibly.

Jamie Wohlgemuth and her family reside in Milton.

My wife’s niece, Kelsey, lost her life in a car accident three years ago this May

by Scott Uhl
She was 14 and finishing her freshman year at Olathe North High School and asked to go for a ride with a couple of friends. Her parents reluctantly agreed fearing for her general safety with an unknown driver but wanting to give her the freedom all teenagers crave. Her father talked to the driver and told him to deliver his daughter safely back home. He agreed and away they went.
Thirty minutes later the lights flashed at home; unknown to the family, the electric disruption was caused by the impact of the boy’s SUV hitting a power pole one mile from Kelsey’s home. The driver and the front seat passenger walked away from the accident with minor injuries. However, Kelsey was not wearing her seatbelt and was tossed around in the back of the SUV.
Kelsey died at the scene still in the vehicle. Maybe Kelsey wanted to be more involved with the conversation and was leaning on the back of the front seat to better hear the conversation. We will never know why Kelsey chose not to put on her seatbelt as she normally did. There is not a day that goes by that her parents don’t reflect on Kelsey and how much they miss her.
Obviously Kelsey’s family and friends instinctively wear their seatbelts because they’ve developed good habits, are required by their job, or are acutely aware of what could happen if they don't wear one. However, our society, as a whole, doesn’t have these incentives. How do we encourage a change so the majority instinctively put on their seatbelts so they don’t have to go through a traumatic loss of a family member to learn this important lesson?
I’ve noticed one built-in feature in newer vehicles that works for those who still do not wear their seatbelts. This simple but effective mechanism is the automatic alarm when seatbelts are not worn. It reminds me often.
Buckle up and drive careful. We have loved ones at home who want to see us tonight.

Scott Uhl is the Topeka chapter director for the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers

Texting and driving is a lethal combination

“The fault, dear drivers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves...”
by David Greiser
Between 4,000 and 8,000 crashes related to distracted driving occur daily in the United States, according to the American Automobile Association. Cell phone use is the fastest growing form of distraction. Research shows that dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device while driving increases the risk of collision about six times. In the moments before a crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices, enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field. In July of this year the New York Times published NHTSA data ( showing that highway safety researchers estimated that cell phone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002 (
Texting is the most distracting activity for drivers using cell phones. Texting while driving is the act of sending or reading text messages or email while operating a motor vehicle. Study results published by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute ( found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting. The risk for drivers of cars and small trucks will be released later this year but is expected to be similar. The Institute reported that driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes, with nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involving some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. The portion of those texting is unknown but significant.
It’s even worse for teens, our least experienced drivers. A study by AAA reports ( that an alarming 46 percent of teens admitted to being distracted while driving due to texting. Combine this information with the fact that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for those under the age of 34 in Kansas and it becomes clear that teens texting while driving is a lethal cocktail.
Car and Driver magazine conducted a recent experiment showed that texting while driving had a greater impact on safety than driving drunk. According to Car and Driver (, “While reading a text and driving at 35 mph, Editor Eddie Alterman’s average baseline reaction time of 0.57 second nearly tripled, to 1.44 seconds. While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds. These figures correspond to an extra 45 and 41 feet, respectively, before hitting the brakes. His reaction time after drinking averaged 0.64 second and, by comparison, added only seven feet. The results at 70 mph were similar: Alterman’s response time while reading a text was 0.35 second longer than his base performance of 0.56 second, and writing a text added 0.68 second to his reaction time. But his intoxicated number increased only 0.04 second over the base score, to a total of 0.60 second.”
The public correctly views drinking and driving as wrong. But when it comes to texting and driving, we are not as outraged. How many more accidents and deaths will it take to change that attitude?
Fourteen states have already passed laws prohibiting texting while driving ( It is time for the other 36 to do the same.

David Greiser is a Public Affairs Manager with KDOT.

DRIVESHARP and senior drivers

by Jim Hanni
Today, those over 65 represent under 10 percent of the U.S. population, but by 2030 they will account for 20 percent.
One of the concerns about senior driving is that as we age, the “useful field of view,” the area over which we can extract information in a single glance, shrinks. For a driver watching the road ahead, this ability might mean noticing a child running into the street after a ball or seeing another car that’s trying to merge into your lane.
It also becomes more difficult to handle distractions and divided attention. If we can improve our divided attention, we should be able to do a better job of tracking multiple moving objects at once, such as cars at a busy intersection or people crossing a street.
These cognitive abilities are vital to safe driving and can help drivers
● notice potential hazards ahead of time
● protect themselves and their passengers by reacting quicker to hazards
● and maintain their overall driving skills and independence.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been working with a company called PositScience, the leading provider of clinically validated brain fitness programs in the U.S. to develop DRIVESHARP, a computer software tool which focuses on the visual systems in the brain essential to safe driving.
Studies show conclusively now that people who use the exercises in DRIVESHARP experience many driving benefits which help to:
● Cut your risk of a car crash by up to 50 percent
● Increase the useful field of view by up to 200 percent
● Reduce stopping distance by up to 22 feet at 55 mph
● Increase confidence while driving at night and in congested traffic
Copies of the software have been donated to the East Topeka Senior Center and Senior Services of Wichita. Another copy has been donated to the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library for demonstration purposes. These were provided so that regardless of income or not having a computer, there will be a place to go where senior drivers can take the exercise challenge and improve their ability to drive safely longer.
The exercises are to be conducted for 20 minutes a day, three times a week, for ten weeks. AAA members can acquire DRIVESHARP for $99 by visiting The non-AAA member price is $129, but for remainder of this week non-members can acquire a copy for $99, too, by visiting

Jim Hanni is the executive vice president of public and government affairs for AAA Kansas.

On workzone safety

by Shirley McDonald
Why work zone safety is important is the topic of this discussion. I am sure that everyone who responds will have a different perspective and there will be some common themes. Most obviously, work zone safety improves the chances that workers and travelers through will be uninjured. People, vehicles, and equipment will remain intact. The work will proceed without delay. Money will be saved. Future travel through the work zone will benefit from the work that has been done. Relationships will survive. Dreams will be fulfilled.
Our 24-year-old son, a KDOT employee, was just a step away from safety when he was killed in a work zone on a busy highway. Several people stated that he and his co-worker had done everything correctly and that if he had just been a step or two in a different direction the car that struck and killed him would have missed him and he would have been safe and alive.
What happened? Was the driver impaired in some way? Did they suffer a medical crisis? Were they reaching for a cell phone or makeup or sunglasses or something? Had they been drinking or using drugs? Were they unable to see our son? Did their vehicle malfunction? Were they driving at an excessive speed and lost control? Did they steer to the right to avoid a head-on collision? The questions torture one’s mind.
Highway workers deserve that we find the best answers possible to keep them safe. Theirs is a dangerous job to keep those of us who travel the highways safe. The worker must be constantly alert to and focused on their job while at the same time constantly aware of and responsive to what is going on around them. They must always be prepared for the unexpected. The equipment they work with is potentially dangerous and must be used in areas that are often less than desirable. Weather, time of day, and volume and speed of traffic can increase the danger. Add in driver behaviors that distract them and the danger is increased.
Work zone safety depends on each of us, worker or traveler through, to be alert, responsible, and focused on our respective work—driving, cycling, walking, road work, rescue work etc. Everyone wants to get home or to their destination safely.

Shirley McDonald is the mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald who was killed in a work zone crash in 2005. 

Seat belt enforcement needs to be a high priority for law enforcement.

by Lance Smith
 It’s early morning in mid-May 2008 and we are holding a Click It or Ticket enforcement at one of our area high schools.
For the next hour-and-a-half we stand at every entrance to the high school’s parking lots and watch for students who are not buckled as they come to school. The law states it’s a primary violation for anyone under 18 years of age to not be properly buckled up in a vehicle. Also if the person not wearing a seat belt is 14 to 17 years of age, officers write them the citation.
Officers wrote 30 seat belt citations that morning, so I decided to do the same thing at the other four county high schools that same week. Officers wrote a total of 109 citations for no seat belts that week just at the high schools.
When the 2009 Click It or Ticket campaign started, I decided to do the same thing again. The same week in 2009, officers wrote 43 citations for no seat belt. It was nice to see the numbers go down, but one citation is too many.
We have also done this type of enforcement other times of the year at elementary and middle schools. We find that if we get out of our patrol cars and greet people as they are pulling into a parking lot or drive, you can see much better if there are kids or adults unbuckled in the vehicle. We also have had very positive responses from the schools while our officers are there. Some of the schools have even done announcements after we are done telling how many citations we wrote for not wearing seat belts and emphasizing how important it is to always wear them.
As law enforcement officers we have to think outside the box sometimes to enforce the law. Also sometimes a ticket is what it takes to educate a driver or occupant that it’s not okay for them or a child to be unbuckled.
In 20 years of law enforcement, I have seen too many times the damage that can happen to the human body if they are not properly seat belted during a crash.
Every law enforcement officer needs to make seat belt enforcement a high priority to save lives.

Lance Smith is a Patrol Sergeant for the Reno County Sheriff's Office.

To Boost, or Not to Boost? That is the Question

by Cherie Sage
I often receive calls from parents, grandparents, and even child care providers with the question, “Does my child need to ride in a booster seat?” It’s a simple enough question, yet the answer sounds more like a high school logic equation spewing out of my mouth. “If 80 pounds, but not 4-foot 9-inches, then…”
 But what I find I want to convey more than anything is that while we now have some of the best child passenger safety laws on the books in the nation, they should not be confused with best-practice recommendations. Laws must be written so there is a clear line between right and wrong. Real life, however, tends to have blushes of grey in there.
My position with Safe Kids is not to be an interpreter of the law, but to help people find the way to best protect their child from accidental injury given their individual situation. In short, your car seat/booster seat should fit your child, fit your vehicle, and have features that will ensure you use it correctly every single time. But what about the 2-year-old who has already outgrown his harness seat that’s rated to 40 pounds? Or the short 8-year-old?
Automobile manufacturers’ design seat belts to fit adults. Generally that means the smallest passengers these are designed for are around 4-foot 9-inches. Most 8-year-olds do not meet this criteria. Indeed, many 8, 9, and even 10-year olds can still benefit from the additional safety that a booster seat provides by making the adult seat belt system fit their bodies.
On the other end, those robust 2- and 3-year olds should instead move into higher-weight harness seats until their maturity and ability to sit in position catches up with their body size.
The best way to answer the individual’s question is to have that adult caregiver and that child visit a local car seat check lane or inspection station where a certified car seat technician can look at the whole picture. Height and weight of the child...dimensions of the vehicle the seat belt system is configured and how it of the car seat or booster seat for the child and the vehicle. This may not be rocket science, but CPS Technicians still have to attend four days of training to become certified, and that’s just to learn the building blocks! If this were simple, we wouldn’t need CPS Techs, so don’t be afraid to seek out their expertise.
Motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for Kansas children, and we’re still seeing car seats being misused at a significant rate (approximately 3 out of 4). And know that if you call me and ask what Kansas law says you have to do, be ready for the essay answer.

Cherie Sage is State Director for Kansas Safe Kids.

That eight-point buck was a swift and clever creature.

By Priscilla Petersen
They’d hunted him to no avail. I spotted him along the US-400 shoulder late one November afternoon —and congratulated myself that we motorists slowed down in both directions, giving him a chance to bound up over the rocky outcropping and disappear.
He reappeared on the same highway one misty morning in mid-December. It was then that I achieved what the hunters had not: I bagged that buck, not with a rifle or arrow, but with the front end of my car. My weekday commute has never been the same.
Was I a little bit groggy as I sipped coffee and listened to NPR? Did the light rain provide the deer cover or was I just distracted? Whatever the case, I didn’t see the deer until he leapt in front of the car and arched off the hood. I pulled my heavily damaged vehicle over to the shoulder alongside the newly dead buck, made some calls, and hitched a ride back to town.
Severely shaken, I nevertheless walked away. Several days later, near the location of my collision, a deer once again bolted onto the highway. A two-vehicle accident ensued that took a human life.
According to KDOT statistics, in Kansas last year there were 9,371 deer-vehicle collisions with six deaths and 318 injuries. Also in 2008, 47 deer-motorcycle accidents resulted in four deaths and 46 injuries. November through January is the mating season and peak time for vehicle-deer accidents, but I have seen deer along Kansas highways each month of the year.
Now I always try to remain extra alert for deer, my gaze sweeping from side to side of the highway. Remember, if you see one deer slow down —there may be more in tow. If you spy a deer in the roadway pull over to the shoulder and wait until the animal is gone.
Be extra vigilant at dawn and dusk. Use high beams at night in areas where there is no oncoming traffic, and watch for deer eyes. Don’t swerve to avoid a collision with a deer, as you could lose control of your vehicle and be involved in an even more serious accident. Wear your seat belt at all times.
Since bagging my buck I’ve managed to remain a deer-free driver. Still, it doesn’t guarantee that I’ll never have another encounter... or two or three! We all need to watch and be careful. Deer are all around us, just waiting to spring out from behind that next tree or shrub beside the highway.

Priscilla Petersen is KDOT's Public Affairs Manager in Chanute.

Share the Road

by Capt. Art Wilburn, KHP
The Kansas Highway Patrol has seen a steady increase in the number of motorcyclists on Kansas roads. With this increase in riders there has also been an increase in the number of motorcycle crashes, many of which have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
For each mile traveled nationwide in 2007, motorcyclists were about 35 times more likely to die in a crash and 8 times more likely to be injured than passenger car occupants. Motorcycle operators are also more likely than other vehicles to be involved in a fatal single-vehicle collision with a fixed object than any other vehicle operators.
One of the reasons for the number of motorcycle crashes when another vehicle is involved is that passenger vehicle drivers often look for other larger vehicles, not motorcycles. If car/truck drivers increase their awareness of motorcycles, and riders make every effort to be seen by drivers, this may decrease the number of motorcycle related crashes.
Troopers have investigated far too many preventable motorcycle crashes that could have been avoided if every motorist practiced basic defensive driving techniques, slowed down, and drove more courteously.
Both drivers and riders should remain aware of blind spots, drivers should look twice after signaling appropriately to make turns or lane changes, and riders can make sure they are not riding in the car or truck driver’s blind spot. Motorists should avoid other distractions while sharing the road, such as talking or text messaging on a cell phone while driving.
Motorcyclists are encouraged to make every effort to be highly visible to other motorists by wearing an appropriate helmet with retro-reflective materials, and bright,contrasting protective clothing.
In 2008 there were 1,138 crashes involving motorcycles that injured 1,028 riders, and killed 44 riders in the state of Kansas. Of the 1,303 riders/passengers involved in motorcycle crashes, only 486 wore helmets. Motorcycle helmets provide the best protection from head injury for motorcyclists involved in traffic crashes. An un-helmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmeted motorcyclist when involved in a crash.
The Patrol strongly supports comprehensive motorcycle safety programs that include the use of motorcycle helmets and other safety equipment, rider education, motorcycle operator licensing, and responsible use of alcohol.
For more information on motorcycle safety, go to
To find an approved motorcycle safety class, click

Capt. Art Wilburn commands the Kansas Highway Patrol's Public and Governmental Affairs Unit.

We All Play a Role in Traffic Safety

by Mark Parkinson
Over the past few years, we’ve taken considerable steps to make Kansas roads safer. In 2006, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, advocates and law enforcement officials came together to pass the Booster Seat Law, which requires children to ride in a safety seat until they turn eight years old. To put it simply - seat belts are designed for adults, and they aren’t as effective in protecting young children without a safety seat. In fact, booster seats for kids younger than eight can reduce the chance of injury by nearly 60 percent.
This past legislative session we passed safer requirements for issuing driving permits and drivers licenses for Kansans younger than 17 years old. Today’s teenager faces many more challenges on the roads then they did just a few years ago —higher speed limits, faster cars, cell phones . . . the list goes on and on.
It made sense that with all these changes, we needed to change the way we thought about what makes a safe driver. The steps we’ve taken have been needed and they have been important, but there are still areas where we can improve the safety of our roads.
We need to be more vigilant in wearing seatbelts; we need to encourage passengers in our cars, or our friends when they’re driving, to buckle-up. The seat belt usage rate in Kansas is 77 percent; that’s ten percent below the average of states that can pull over drivers for not wearing a seatbelt. That ten percent difference equates to an estimated 30 lives that could be saved in Kansas each year.
Of course, if you wear your seat belt every time you drive, you might be wondering what the incentive is for you to have others buckle up. The incentive is financial - 85 percent of the medical costs associated with vehicle accidents are passed on to everyone else through higher insurance costs, public health costs and law enforcement costs. As Kansas Transportation Secretary Miller has said, “the choice not to wear a seat belt costs you, costs me, and costs all Kansans.”
When it comes to traffic safety, we all have a role to play —from making sure our children are in the proper safety seat, to making sure each passenger is buckled up. It’s a simple solution that can save us all so much. I encourage parents to learn more at or call the booster seat education hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-416-2522.

Mark Parkinson is the Governor of Kansas.

Again last week I stood at the bedside of a young person who died in a motor vehicle crash

by Darlene S. Whitlock RN, ARNP, EMT
The circumstances vary little from patient to patient—they are often young, in a car or pickup, not wearing a seatbelt, doing some risky speeding-texting-drug/alcohol- drowsy-distracted behavior. Sometimes they are completely innocent, just in the wrong place at the right time.
Another life ended—unnaturally.
 The most common circumstance though, is a family and friends left to wonder how something so awful could happen so fast.
 Emergency nurses see this time after time—in small communities and in the largest cities all across Kansas. Even if the person isn’t killed, they come to the Emergency Department in pain, disfigured, and with their lives disrupted even temporarily. This is besides the considerable financial toll.
 This is an occurrence so common that special hospitals have been built to care for just these kinds of patients, special classes have been written to teach ambulance personnel, nurses and physicians how to care for them, and special equipment made to extricate them from the wreckage or care for them at the hospital. Police gain experience in death notification, social workers try to get them help to return to their previous life if they are injured and housekeeping staff have to clean the floors of the rooms where a whole group of people worked furiously to keep them alive.
 This is not an attempt to shock or distress the reader—this is reality.
I believe that many of the deaths could be prevented, with so little effort. Every day injury prevention specialists give messages about wearing seatbelts and being attentive to all the details that driving requires. I do not understand the opposition to having things like a primary seatbelt law. The attempt to pass it last year was unsuccessful even when there was more than $10 million dollars direct financial benefit to the state. Would it really have restricted an important freedom of choice?
I am so pleased with the Child Passenger Safety laws and the Graduated Drivers License law. These are not attempts to control lives—they are attempts to save them.
In this time set aside to “put the brakes on fatalities,” I hope that I will not see another person—young or old—whose life ended unnaturally. Statistically though, I probably will. Wear your seatbelt.

Darlene S. Whitlock works in Trauma Services at Stormont Vail Health Center in Topeka and serves on the board of directors of the Kansas Emergency Nurses Association.

Driving is the most dangerous thing any of us will do on a given day

by Deb Miller
It’s an unfortunate sign of our times that most Americans probably have been impacted by a traffic fatality.
Whether it’s a family member, friend, friend of a friend, classmate, co-worker or neighbor, the news of a person losing his or her life in such a sudden, violent manner hits like a sledge hammer. Then shock gives way to anguish, heartbreak and sadness.
Imagine a day in this nation when no one receives such devastating news. Think of the impact that would have on families and communities. That thought —which seems so unimaginable today —was the driving force behind the first Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day in 2001. The idea for the observance came from then-Kansas Department of Transportation engineer Larry Emig, who modeled it after the Great American Smoke Out. The Washington, D.C., kickoff of this national event came only a month after the 9/11 attacks when the mood of the nation was still somber. It was a good time for us to think about the things we had control over and what we could do to prevent death and suffering.
Many times I have said that driving is the most dangerous thing any of us will do on a given day. And whether we safely return to our loved ones at the end of the day is, in most cases, within our control. First, we can decide to be attentive when driving —no texting or talking on the phone. We can decide not to drink and drive. We can decide to pull off the road for a break if we’re sleepy. And, we can always wear a seatbelt, whether we are the driver or a passenger.
Beginning today, there will be 20 blogs in this spot leading up to Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day on Oct. 10. They will address many aspects of traffic safety. They will be written by a trauma nurse, the mother of a KDOT worker killed in a work zone, law enforcement officers, transportation experts and others. Please take the time to not only read the blogs, but to make comments.
We can do so much more to protect ourselves and our families. And we can start by refusing to accept that fatalities are simply a natural byproduct of a society that depends on roads and highways.

Deb Miller is Kansas Transportation Secretary.