Continue the efforts to put the brakes on fatalities

By Kim Stich
Yesterday was the official Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. We’ve had a lot of great activities in Kansas in the last couple months to highlight this national safety campaign that started in Kansas 10 years ago thanks to KDOT retiree Larry Emig. He had a goal of a fatality-free day and turned it into a national campaign to raise safety awareness.
Some of the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day activities we have had in Kansas included:
• Our second annual 20-day series of safety blogs on KTOC with a great group of bloggers that culminated on October 8 with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
• Promoting our activities and events through Facebook, Twitter and other types of social media.
• Nearly 800 Kansas kids ages 5-13 participating in a safety poster contest with 18 kids receiving regional and statewide recognition.
• Distributing 20,000 safety brochures as well as various statewide releases, bookmarks, public service announcements and posters throughout Kansas.
• Gov. Mark Parkinson signing a proclamation designating Oct. 10, 2010, as Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day in Kansas.
Unfortunately there were fatality crashes that happened across the United States yesterday. We may never achieve the goal of a fatality-free day. But what’s most important is that we never give up working together, raising awareness, improving safety and striving to do everything we can to try and reach that goal. That’s where the real success lies.
I’d like to thank all of our partners and members of the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day committee for all your hard work. These activities take a lot time, and I appreciate your efforts. There wouldn’t be a safety campaign in Kansas without you.
Buckle up, slow down, pay attention and we’ll see you next year for another great round of safety blogs!
For more information about Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day, go, or you can call KDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Information at 785-296-3585.

Kim Stich is a Program Consultant for KDOT.

"Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day a great reminder, but road safety is on my mind every day of the year

By Secretary Ray LaHood
Those of you who have benefited from this terrific web page provided by the folks at KDOT know that this weekend the US Department of Transportation, state agencies, and safety advocates across the country will mark an auspicious day. Sunday, October 10, 2010--or 10-10-10--is the 10th anniversary of "Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day.
This is a day when we focus public awareness on driver behavior, vehicle safety, and roadway improvement in an effort to reduce traffic deaths across America. And these efforts are working.
As we announced last month at USDOT, traffic fatalities in 2009 were down considerably from the previous year--even though the number of miles driven went up during the same period. In fact, last year saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1950.
The numbers from the first six months of 2010 are even more encouraging. Road fatalities from January to June of this year are down another 9.2 percent compared to the same period last year. This means we've had 17 straight quarters of year-to-year declines.
But if you know one of the nearly 34,000 people killed on our roadways in 2009--if you lost a loved one--then you know that number is still too high.
So Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is an opportunity for the safety community to highlight important initiatives like Click it, Or Ticket; Over the Limit, Under Arrest; and Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other. And it's a chance for us to remind people that everyone has a personal responsibility to make safe decisions when you get behind the wheel.
It's a chance to take this safety fight to the next level. And that's exactly what's on my mind 365 days a year.
Now, if you read my blog ( , you know I love many things about my job. But, as you may also know from my rampage against distracted driving, I am also weighed down by the human cost of the crashes on our roadways each year.
Whatever and whoever is involved--car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian--I don't see these preventable deaths as statistics; I take them personally. That's probably why the Washington Post says I approach safety with "evangelical zeal."
I know that each life lost is a hole torn in a family or circle of friends or community.
And each one reminds me of a job unfinished. We have yet to find the silver technological bullet that leads to crash-proof roads and vehicles. We have yet to get 100% of Americans to buckle up. We have yet to keep all drivers from drinking. We have yet to eliminate texting and talking on cell phones behind the wheel.
That's why we need the efforts of all those who participate in Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. They've been doing a terrific job for 10 years--and we must include this innovative K-TOC site as a great addition to KDOT's safety toolkit.
Unfortunately, now is no time to rest. Our roads are safer now than they've ever been, but there is plenty more to do. And, working together, we will make those roads even safer.

Ray LaHood is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation 

Missing Dad

By Whitney Williams
Two years and 11 days ago--September 26, 2008--was the day my life turned upside-down and backwards. It started off as a normal Friday. I got up, went to school, came home, went to work. I came home very excited because my best friend Shanda was staying the night. We put in our first movie, and got about halfway through when my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, Trisha. She asked, “Where is your dad?’’ I replied, “It’s Friday night, you know his routine; out to dinner with Mom at Chico’s, then to Uncle Phillip’s transmission shop, then to his best friend Brian’s house.” She said, “Well I don’t want to scare you, but there has been a motorcycle wreck at K-42 and Hoover.” K-42 and Hoover is right in between Phillip’s shop and Brian’s house. I said, “OK, call me back if you know anything else.” I called my mom and she said she was on her way to K-42 and Hoover.
About 30 minutes later, I called my mom again, but this time a lady named Christina answered the phone. Christina is a woman from our church who I found out later just happened to pull up next to my mom. Christina asked me if I knew what was going on and I told her yes. She said, “Well... He didn’t make it.”
I hit the floor, bawling my eyes out. The next few days were a complete blur. The viewing, funeral and arrangements, it was pure nuts. The viewing lasted forever! What amazed me, however, was the variety of people coming through. One person would be in a suit and the next person would be covered in tattoos and piercings. My dad obviously made an impact on people and he definitely loved his life and everyone in it. The funeral had over 1,000 people there.
Dealing with court was such a pain. The wreck was a hit and run. My dad had the green arrow and he started to turn left and BAM! The guy hit him and kept going. The man who killed my father had a blood alcohol content (B.A.C.) level of 0.03, but the legal limit is 0.08, so his B.A.C. was under the legal limit. He also had a prescription drug, Depakote, in his system, within the “proper” range. His punishment was a $30 fine for running the red light, a $10,000 fine for his driving record (he’d had previous run-ins with the law), and 18 months in jail. My story proves you don’t have to be completely drunk to hurt someone. The first sip impairs you, so whether it’s one drink, two drinks, or two million drinks, it impairs you.
Going back to school, I was known as the girl whose dad died. That wasn’t a title I wanted to stick. Nobody knew what I was going through, so it was very hard at first. Then I started volunteering for the D.U.I Victim Center of Kansas. I have been doing that for a year now, and I speak to D.U.I offenders. I’m now a freshman at Cowley County in Arkansas City, I’m studying criminal justice and maybe even possibly going on to law school.
I miss my dad so much; he always knew exactly what to say to make me laugh. I want to be just like him... he was my hero. Unfortunately, my story is just one of many. Every year, thousands of people are taken from their families by tragedies involving impaired drivers. So please everybody out there, don’t drink and drive EVER!

Whitney Williams is a freshman at Cowley County High School

Safer Roadways + Attentive Drivers = Fewer Crashes

By Brian Armstrong
A century ago, anyone could work as an engineer without proof of competency. In order to protect the public health, safety and welfare, the first engineering licensure law was enacted in 1907. Now every state regulates the practice of engineering to ensure public safety by granting Professional Engineers (PEs) the authority to sign and seal engineering plans.
Professional Engineers put the welfare and safety of the public above all other concern. This is certainly the case for the PEs that dedicate their professional lives to designing roadways and bridges in Kansas.
Kansas is to be commended for its investment in the transportation system. Studies show that increased investment in road and bridge improvements at the local level saves lives. Making road lanes and shoulders wider, adding medians and roundabouts, making steep roadways and sharp curves smooth and improving bridges are just a few of the improvements that have been shown to cut fatalities significantly.
Highway safety information from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
• Every $100 million invested in highway safety improvements will result in approximately 145 fewer traffic fatalities over a 10-year period.
• Approximately 500 people are killed annually in crashes at rail-highway crossings.
• About 12,000 people are killed annually in traffic crashes involving collisions with a fixed object such as a tree, guardrail, utility pole, curb or light pole.
As we continue to improve the safety of Kansas roadways, please do your part in driving them safely. Buckle up, drive the speed limit, put your phone in the glove box and pay attention!
With Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day on October 10, 2010, please help educate people on what we can do to reduce transportation fatalities and crashes on American highways!

Brian Armstrong, P.E., is the President of the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers

Motorcycle Safety

By Tim McCool
With the economy in the shape it is, the Kansas Highway Patrol has seen an increase in the number of motorcyclists on Kansas roads and highways the last few years. This increase of motorcyclists brings with it an increase in collisions. When a collision occurs between a motorcycle and car or truck, it is inevitably a bad thing for the rider.
A lot has been said of the freedom and sense of exhilaration people get from riding a motorcycle out on the open road. The down side is, for that freedom you give up all of the occupant protection that a car gives you. The end result is a personal choice, and hopefully the motorcyclist will make some choices which will increase their safety such as:
• Wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-compliant helmet. (Protect the onboard computer!!)
• Taking an approved motorcycle rider education course.
• Using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity.
• Always following the posted speed limits and making adjustments for road hazards.
• Avoiding rides in poor weather conditions.
• Using turn signals to communicate every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it. (You’re doing it for the one you don’t see!!)
• Combining hand and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves.(See previous)
• Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers.
• AND... NEVER mixing alcohol and driving!
Troopers have investigated far too many preventable motorcycle collisions that could have been avoided if every motorist practiced basic defensive driving techniques, slowed down and increased their following distance in adverse driving situations and just drove more courteously.
Both drivers and riders should be aware of blinds spots in and around their vehicles. Drivers should look twice after signaling a turn or lane change before completing the maneuver, and riders should make sure they are not riding in a car or truck driver’s blind spot.
All motorists should avoid driving distractions while sharing the road, such as talking or texting on a cell phone. All it takes is a momentary lapse in attention to cause a crash that can take someone’s life in a matter of seconds; most collisions are done and over in about three to five seconds. The consequences can be life changing.
As my friend Phyllis says: “Be safe, be seen, and keep the shiny side up!”

Tim McCool is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol

Distracted driving deserves our scorn

By Deb Miller
Some important measures have been taken this year to improve traffic safety in Kansas.
First, we have a new transportation program that will allow us to preserve our good roads and make strategic improvements. And, we now have two well-publicized laws that will save lives and prevent injuries--the primary seat belt law and the ban on texting while driving. The laws are welcome, if overdue.
But for all the good the new program and laws will have on Kansans’ health, they aren’t nearly as important as one, often-overlooked factor--personal responsibility.
The best-engineered road can’t prevent a crash if a driver is less focused on driving than he or she is on searching for a new tune, disciplining children or putting ketchup on a French fry. A seat belt law won’t save lives or prevent additional insurance and health costs for all of us if drivers and passengers still refuse to buckle up. And a texting ban won’t be as effective as it should be if we fail to be outraged by such behavior.
A third of all crashes in Kansas over the past five years involved driver inattention or driver distraction--such as use of a cell phone. That number is frustrating for all of us in the transportation business because we know so many crashes can be prevented if drivers just take seriously the responsibility of driving.
Few things irritate me more than to look over at the driver in the next lane and see that person texting behind the wheel. We as fellow travelers--not as a governmental entity--need to figure out how to make those who still text and drive social pariahs. Instead of being fascinated by their dexterity or their need to stay so connected with friends, we need to be appalled.
Societal attitudes can change behavior and it happened with littering a few decades back. I remember when very few people even raised an eyebrow about the tons of trash that were thrown out of car windows. Years of education campaigns and some powerful TV commercials (anyone remember the &#8220; <a href=";FORM=VIRE2&amp;adlt=strict">Crying Indian </a>&#8221; message?) convinced the nation that littering and litterers were not acceptable. When that commercial aired back in my high school days I considered littering a reason not to date a guy!
We need to adopt that same attitude about those who think it’s OK to text while driving. Inattentive and distracted driving put all of us at risk. That’s not acceptable and we should treat it like we would any other anti-social behavior.

Deb Miller is Kansas Secretary of Transportation. 

Lessons in life

By Amanda Trei
It's been proven time and again, on back roads and superhighways: A seat belt can save a life in a car accident.
Back on October 13, 1992, I was fighting for my life after becoming paralyzed from a car accident and not wearing a seatbelt. I never would have thought that this many years later I would be a successful teacher and run my own photography business, who believes in herself and makes a difference in the lives that she meets every day!
My situation has led me to discover things about myself that I would not have before. I am proud not only of what my disability has taught me, but also of where it has taken me and whom I have met along the way. People have stayed and people have went about their way and left my journey.
If you want to know why you should wear a seat belt, it's for your protection. This could save your life even in a small minor traffic accident.
So much in my life is because of this injury. No, life isn't perfect, but it wasn't perfect before I used a wheelchair either! Over time I have come to realize... It wasn't me who changed... It was my perspective! Being a gal that uses a wheelchair has reminded me to appreciate the little things in life such as being able to get out of bed each morning and enjoy the fresh air. I have begun to realize, it is not what I do in life that matters. It is who I am inside that truly defines the real me. I have met people in my life who are blatantly uncomfortable around me. So be it I say. Deal with your own feelings, in your own time.
Having said all of this, I didn't get here overnight. It took me a bunch of years to come to grips with the gravity of it all. It took a great support system of family and friends, a belief in myself, an ungodly number of margaritas and a deeply engrained sense of humor. All that I have going for me defuses the all-consuming desire to lash out, to find and affix blame.
You don't need to walk to fall in love, to get married, have kids, get a degree, go to work or be a successful leader. Whatever you want to do, you don't need to walk to write, paint, take in a ballgame, go hunting, scuba diving, whatever.
Napoleon said, "Struggle is a decided advantage, for it awakens within you attributes which would otherwise forever lie dormant."

Amanda Trei is an advocate for seat belts

Making an impact on improving safety

By Troy Wells
My name is Troy Wells and I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve as the president for Operation Impact, Wichita/Sedgwick County Region. I have been with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office for the last 23 years and currently serve as the Sergeant assigned to Special Operations.
Throughout my career, I have focused on and enjoyed working traffic because I believe it plays a significant role in deterring dangerous drivers. My experiences as a child helped to form this belief. When I was in the fifth grade, I came home from school and learned my dad had been killed in a motor vehicle collision. Not until years later, did I find out my father had been intoxicated at the time of the crash, and I felt just furious inside that my father would do this to me. The experience did lead to my desire to enter the field of law enforcement; so that I could make a difference, and deter people from driving impaired.
While on patrol, I spent 21 years working the street, enforcing traffic laws to the best of my ability. I averaged approximately 150 citations a month, in addition to general case loads. I also had the opportunity to become an accident re-constructionist, where I have worked multiple accidents involving impaired drivers. Since January 2009, I have served as the sergeant for Special Operations, directing the K-9 units, truck inspectors, fatality accident investigations and all traffic operation grants supplied by KDOT.
While serving in this capacity, I have worked with two individuals who have been a great help to me, Robert Eichorn and Dave Corp. Robert has assisted me in many areas, including acquiring a DUI trailer, which will be a huge asset to our area. Dave has also assisted in many areas, the most recent being Operation Impact. This project is designed to bring all the agencies in and around the Sedgwick County area together to work towards common goals, including working together on DUI check lanes, seatbelt enforcement, and additional traffic problems identified the agencies.
So far we have held two meetings, identifying several similar concerns. The meetings have enabled us to listen to the different ways our agencies are dealing with the concerns and to find fresh ideas on how to work together to help solve problems.

Troy Wells is with Operation Impact in Sedgwick County. 

Life lessons at an early age

By Calvin Carter
The first accident I was ever involved in happened when I was 4. The first accident I was in as one of the offending drivers happened when I was 8.
It was a perfect Sunday afternoon in Junction City. My best friend/neighbor and I were racing our bikes up and down our street, Woodland Circle and Mistletoe Circle. The circles made our street into our own personal raceway. Bittersweet Road intersects Woodland and Mistletoe. Nobody drives down Bittersweet, EVER. My friend and I have blown right through that stop sign so many times, it’s routine.
Today, my friend pulled an amazing turn through the circle at the end of Mistletoe, leaving me in the dust. I made my turn and pedaled as hard as I could to catch him. He was ahead by about 100 feet when he blew through the Mistletoe stop sign, crossed Bittersweet, and claimed victory on Woodland. In an effort to finish strong I blew through the Mistletoe stop sign….
The next thing I remember is being thrown off a hood and landing on the top of my head, on the hot concrete, rolling, and coming to rest at the curb. I know it was the curb of Bittersweet because the walkie-talkie I had clipped to my bike was still sliding down the road while I was lying on the curb. I looked up to see my dad running full speed towards me, and a hysterical woman crying while jumping out of her blue VW Bug. My bike was on the other side of Bittersweet Rd., with the front tire rim crushed so hard, the spokes were scattered all over the road.
I sat up, and besides the top of my head leaking, I was fine, the hospital confirmed.
The woman said she was changing the CD before the accident. She didn’t see my friend ride across the street, so she didn’t slow down.
I was by no means a dumb kid--I was just a kid. I’m sure this woman didn’t expect a kid to blow through an intersection on a bike, but I did. The lesson I learned at a young age is to PAY ATTENTION and always expect the unexpected. You never know who could run out in the road, and if you’re traveling 30 mph, you don’t have much time to react.
This accident could’ve easily been fatal, I was lucky to leave without any injuries or lasting consequences.
Two weeks ago when I informed my dad I might use this story for my blog, he said, “That lady wasn’t driving a blue VW Bug, she was driving a white Intrepid.”

Calvin Carter is the Public Affairs Manager for KDOT in southwest Kansas.

Our Traffic Safety Culture

By Jim Hanni
We incurred another staggering 33,963 traffic fatalities in 2009. While last year’s fatalities represent almost a 9 percent decline from the previous year, someone now dies every 15 ½ minutes in a crash, instead of one every 14 minutes the previous year. One death should concern us, but deaths this frequently is an outrage! But where’s the outrage?!
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently completed its third annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, finding that 52 percent of drivers said they feel less safe on the roads now than they did five years ago. That’s up from 35 percent last year. The leading reason cited was distracted driving, with 88 percent of motorists rating drivers who text and email as a very serious threat to their safety.
The study showed that the majority of drivers (62 percent) feel that talking on a cell phone is a very serious threat to safety, but they don’t always behave accordingly, or believe that others share these views. In fact, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed admitted to talking on their phones and 24 percent said they read or sent text messages or emails while driving in the previous month.
Unlike the social stigma surrounding drinking and driving, driving while texting, emailing or talking on the phone aren’t perceived as an egregious behavior despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the serious crash risk these behaviors pose. These latest findings help identify crucial disconnects between public perceptions and behaviors.
Traffic Safety touches our lives with serious consequences. Half of survey respondents report having been involved in a serious crash, having had a friend or relative injured or killed in a crash, or both. “Doing as I say, not as I do” is a human characteristic, but there are ways to change human behaviors. We need to recognize that driving is a complex human activity for which much is taken for granted.
Yet in other countries, other cultures, humans are accepted for the flawed individuals/drivers they are and focus on creating a system that recognizes and tries to compensate. This isn’t to say people shouldn’t be held accountable for irresponsible behavior. It IS to say, however, that they shouldn’t be held accountable for being human, that is, imperfect.
There is much we can do structurally, organizationally, at the policy level that will produce changes in individual behavior. However, until we build cars that assure belt use and other safety features, organizations prohibit employees from using communication devices while driving, elected officials and regulators start basing policies and programs on science rather than personal beliefs, and until investments are made strategically, transparently, accountably in safe roadway development--like we already do to fight wars and disease--the carnage will continue. We must start with each one of us, doing our part to practice and advocate traffic safety to change this culture of “do as I say, not as I do.”

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

Drinking and Driving - a Deadly Combination

By Kelly Riemann
Two days ago was my son’s birthday. He would have been 28 years old. Instead, due to a series of not only poor, but illegal choices by a teenager, Daniel died on Mother’s Day at the age of 25.
This teenager, just home from his first year of college, took his mother’s car keys and drove to a graduation party. His first wrong and illegal choice was to drink at that party as he was underage. Second he decided after drinking all night to drive his friends to yet another party.
He was driving recklessly and speeding nearly double the posted speed though a residential street. All three boys deny seeing my son as he crossed the lighted street at a crosswalk.
Daniel’s body was thrown 135 feet from where he was hit. His left leg below the knee was traumatically amputated and was 185 feet from Daniel’s body. He died immediately.
The final wrong choice the driver made was to keep going after hitting Daniel. Leaving the scene of an accident is not only wrong, it’s a felony! The driver received a seven-year sentence. The driver, two other boys in the car, and the owners of the home where the alcohol was served are all being sued civilly for Daniel’s wrongful death.
I repeatedly warn my other children (even though they are adults) about walking near a street and crossing the street. You can never assume what the drivers of the cars will do. Do not take for granted they will stop or obey any other laws. Assume the worse from all drivers and take appropriate defensive measures.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times and take every precaution for your own safety - your life may depend on it.
Even though we know Daniel was not at fault, we want to prevent any other family from going through the deepest of pain as we have. Not a day goes by that his family doesn’t pray Daniel was still with us.

Kelly Riemann is a member of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).

S.A.F.E. (Seatbelts Are For Everyone)

By Sandy Horton
What started out as a conversation two years ago with Dave Corp, the Law Enforcement Liaison for KDOT’s Traffic Safety Section, has now turned into the most rewarding, life-saving experience of my 31 years in law enforcement.
Dave approached me, concerned that Crawford County had the lowest seatbelt compliance rate of the 20 counties surveyed in 2008, at 54 percent. I have known Dave since his days as a Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol, and know he is the kind of person who speaks his mind, so quite frankly I told him he had to be mistaken. I left my office in Girard and drove 4 miles south of town to take my own driving-down-the-highway survey. What I saw shocked me; the survey of 54 percent appeared to have been very generous.
What started out as a conversation now became a situation unacceptable for this Sheriff; something was going to change! Dave, knowing that we already had an excellent working relationship with all six of our high schools, suggested we start there. So, here came the Highway Patrol: Captain Wilson, along with Trooper Keene, quickly became partners in our new venture.
We met with school superintendents, principals, and then 30 high school students representing ALL of the schools in the county. From that organizational meeting arose a student-driven, community-supported, law enforcement-based seatbelt program named S.A.F.E. (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) by the students.
S.A.F.E. is comprised of three elements: Education, Incentive, and Enforcement. In December, we hold school assemblies for the EDUCATION phase, talking about the number of teens killed and injured on Kansas roadways every year. We talk about 95 percent of those teens killed not being buckled-up. We also refer to a local crash involving five of our own local high school students: four of the five not buckled-up when the car flew over some railroad tracks, rolled several times, ejecting the unbuckled ones, seriously injuring all four... but the one who was buckled received only minor injuries. Then the Highway Patrol brings in their Convincer and lets students and staffs take a turn at a simulated 5-mph crash.
Next is the INCENTIVE phase, where--thanks to our sponsors, including AAA of Kansas and Missouri, State Farm, Farm Bureau, Labette Bank, KDHE/SEK Trauma Council, Via Christi, Girard Medical Center, Marrone’s Inc, and Varsolona Driving School--$25 VISA cards are drawn for at each school for four months. All the students have to do is sign a pledge card (designed by the students and now used statewide) pledging to wear their seatbelts. At the end of the program, two schools are determined to be Grand Prize schools. Those include the school with the highest percentage increase from the first survey to the last, and the school with the highest overall percentage. All the surveys are taken by the students themselves. The grand prize schools last year had a drawing for two $250 VISA cards and six IPods each.
In the ENFORCEMENT phase, we partner with local Police Departments and the Kansas Highway Patrol to work the school zones and areas around our schools. There is no tolerance for those not wearing seat belts, and all offenders get citations. In the 2007/2008 school year, when the primary law for teen seatbelt use went into effect, we accompanied the Highway Patrol to our schools and gave out safety brochures and had the Convincer with us. We probably spent more time picking the brochures up off the ground than anything else. The next week we were back and wrote 292 seat belt violation tickets. In the first year using S.A.F.E. we wrote 64 citations, and last year only 25.
The results? What started as a conversation about the worst survey rate of 54 percent before S.A.F.E., turned into a 77 percent compliance rate in 2010. Not only that, but we saw increases ranging from 21 percent to 36 percent for the age groups not involved in S.A.F.E. Not only are our high school students buckling up, but they’re passing the message on to their parents and siblings.
Finally, during the months of May, June and July of this year we have seen eight rollover crashes involving teens as drivers or passengers. 100 percent of those involved were buckled up. NONE were ejected and only three received minor injuries. That, folks, is unheard-of around here, until now! One of those crashes occurred only two miles from my home, and I was first on the scene. I saw the Ford Ranger pickup resting on its top in a field and a young lady sitting in the ditch holding her bleeding arm. As I approached her, I recognized Bobbi Smith; she is the same age as my daughter, 17, and they go to the same school. While waiting on the ambulance I placed a gauze bandage on her arm, which was now only bleeding slightly. As we were talking I asked, “So, tell me Bobbi, were you wearing your seatbelt?” She looked at me with disgust that I would even ask the question and said, “You know I was, Sandy, I’ve been in S.A.F.E. for two years.”
Remember what I said at the beginning about the most rewarding, life-saving experience of my 31 years of service? Well, I meant in my lifetime--and Bobbi’s too.

Sandy Horton is the Crawford County Sheriff. The S.A.F.E. program was given a “People Saving People” award at KDOT’s 2009 Traffic Safety Conference.

Seatbelts: Changing Behavior by Changing Laws

By Darlene Whitlock
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead
US anthropologist and popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)
Although the best thing about the passage of the primary seatbelt legislation was the passage of the primary seatbelt legislation, several other good things happened too. A group of thoughtful committed citizens worked together to succeed in passing a law that will undoubtedly save lives.
The first good thing is to recognize and thank the group of legislators themselves. After many attempts over multiple years, a majority of the members of both the House and the Senate voted to pass a primary seatbelt law. Although it is not ideal, it will ultimately be recognized as a public health victory.
Another good thing that I witnessed personally was being involved with diverse groups, all focused on one prevention effort. Through the use of electronic media, I saw professional nursing groups such as the Kansas State Nurses Association and the Kansas Emergency Nurses Association, EMS providers from all around the state, my hospital administrative leadership, bedside caregivers and non-healthcare friends contact their representatives to voice their request for passage of this law. I appreciate every one of those folks who followed through and took the time to make the contact and voice their request. Other organizations including KDOT, AAA, KAC, KHP and others lead the way with drafting and lobbying for the bill, this kind of grass roots support is what is needed to form a coalition that influences change.
Obviously, I believe that the implementation of a primary seatbelt law will reduce deaths and severe injury. As an ED/Trauma nurse for more than 35 years, I have seen first-hand the difference that safety belts can make. Being ejected from a vehicle subjects the human body to injury from whatever they come in contact with outside the car. Even if it is not ejected, the unrestrained human body becomes a missile that not only is injured, but also may be the wounding force that strikes other passengers. What a tragedy to think that a person wearing their seatbelt or in their car seat might be injured by person who is not restrained.
One of the first questions trauma nurses are taught to ask about motor vehicle crash details, is if the patient was restrained. If they were not restrained, the nurse immediately has a heightened suspicion of more severe injuries than if they were restrained. The passage of this primary seatbelt law will hopefully mean that more trauma nurses will learn that the patient they are caring for protected themselves in one of the best ways possible---they were wearing their seatbelt-----they will probably recover from their injuries.

Darlene S. Whitlock works in Trauma Services at Stormont Vail

U Text, U Drive, U Lose

By Erica Bell
Some of you may know who I am, but for those who don’t, here’s what happened to me in a nutshell. I am 16 and I was on my way to work one day and wrecked my car on the flyover from the Westgate Bridge to Gage Blvd. I hit the inside wall of the flyover head on; if there had been anyone in the inside lane, I probably would have died. Lucky for me, there wasn’t.
I had been regularly texting and driving for a while. When I started driving I thought I would never do it; I knew it was dangerous and I never thought I would make such a dumb decision. But then there were a few times I did it, and then I got more and more comfortable with it and started doing it all the time. HUGE mistake!
Since I survived, I feel that I must share with everyone how dangerous texting and driving is. Like me, lots of people think that they will never do it, but then it happens a few times and you start doing it more and more and become comfortable with it. What I am trying to say is just don’t even start doing it. If the text is that important, then pull over and call the person or respond. If it’s not important enough to pull over, then it’s not important enough to die over. My text was from a boy that I liked, and I thought that it was super-important, but the truth is that that boy wasn’t important enough to risk my life for, and I am super-lucky that I didn’t die. So please do not risk your life and the lives of others over a silly text that can wait until you are stopped. And if it is that important, PULL OVER!!!

Erica Bell is a junior at Seaman High School in Topeka. 

Work Zone Safety - A Mom's Worst Nightmare

By Shirley McDonald
Promoting work zone safety is a very personal issue for me. Whenever I pass a work zone, I am immediately reminded of the day my son, Scott McDonald, was killed while working.
What bizarre circumstances came together at the exact seconds that the driver left the road and struck him, tossing him into the air and eventually ending his life a short time later due to a massive head injury? Did the whole accident last long enough that he was aware and scared for his life? Was he in horrible pain those last minutes of his life? Was he aware that others were with him within seconds struggling to save him? Did he know that he was not alone? Did he know how much we loved him?
Last weekend I traveled on local, state, and interstate highways where I became convinced that construction zone work is one of the most dangerous occupations that exist. I drove through the areas on a hot summer day with Kansas dust blowing, cars speeding by with little, if any, awareness of, let alone attention to, work zone speed limits or hazards. I saw drivers smoking, eating, talking on their cell phones, reading maps, disciplining children, just to note a few examples of less-than-attentive driving.
Occasionally my van rocked from the speed of drivers passing by and the force of the wind. The distance separating the work zone and workers from traffic sometimes looked like only inches, especially when concrete barrier blocks were set up or the area being constructed was small, like a two-way road with one lane each way, or an intersection in a high-traffic area. The workers concentrated on their work and seemed to be looking out for each other.
I thought about the workers out in those elements and how the weather must be affecting them and their ability to stay focused. I also wondered how they deal with the potential dangers without becoming too fearful to continue to do their jobs.
How can the workers protect themselves from the dangers all around? How can we who enter the work zones promote their safety? How can we promote the knowledge that those who work in a work zone are loved and valued individuals with someone waiting for them to come home?

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

Underage Drinking… “a little beer.”

By Sean Wallace
Underage Drinking is a leading public health problem. Youth 12-20 abuse alcohol at a higher rate than they abuse tobacco or illicit drugs. Why is this a problem? Is it possible societal attitudes toward underage drinking are contributing to the problem? Have we allowed alcohol producers and distributors to operate unchecked as they market and sell to our kids? Alcohol beverage companies produce alcoholic beverages that are euphemistically called “alcho-pops” because they resemble soda and other soft drinks in taste and appearance. Those beverages are obviously marketed for young people, not adults. When local alcohol distributers statewide are caught selling to an underage agent of the police during a sting over and over again, they rarely face consequences of any significance.
Could it be in addition to society at large, the attitudes of our local citizens toward underage drinking are also contributing to the problem? I have dealt with underage drinking for 25 years as a police officer, and for the past four years as the Chief of Police of the Arkansas City Police Department. I have been asked the same question for 25 years by well-meaning citizens. They ask why we (the police) do not concentrate on “real crime” and leave the kids drinking “a little beer” alone, after all, “they’re not hurting anyone.” Really? In Arkansas City “a little beer” leads to a lot of life-altering problems for the young people of our community. Over 50 percent of the rapes reported in our city occur at underage drinking parties. Over the past few years, Arkansas City Police Officers have watched paramedics treat at least a dozen of our youth for alcohol poisoning. This is not to mention the property damage, assaults, and car crashes that have become a normal part of these gatherings.
We all must change our attitudes about underage drinking. It is more than just “a little beer.” It is a growing problem. Help stop “a little beer” from causing a lot of pain for our children. Report underage drinking and protect our children’s health, dignity, and future.

Sean Wallace is the Chief of Police in Arkansas City, Kansas. 


By Tod Hileman
Err...wait a minute, 33,963 deaths is pushing record lows? Sure seems like a lot of people dying on the highways! If I multiply that number by the number of years I have left in my Highway Patrol career, that would be, ummm, let’s see, 4 times 9, carry the 7, no wait? Man, why am I so bad with simple math? Wasn’t Einstein bad with simple math too? I think he was, which means deep down, I could be as smart as him right! With all joking aside, that’s a lot of people needlessly dying on our nation’s highways.
I was going to entitle this blog, <i>How Not to Die While Driving through Kansas</i>, because I was inspired by an Ohio couple I was privileged to meet a couple of weeks ago. They were traveling east on I-70 by Colby when their tire blew out at 70 miles per hour. After 18 years in law enforcement and having to clean up the carnage when people are ejected from a vehicle, I was expecting the worst as I drove to the scene.
When I arrived, it looked like the normal scene, skid marks leading into the median, glass debris, car lying on its top completely intact, witness stating what a violent crash it was, driver and passenger standing by my partner’s car giving their statement...; Wait a minute, that’s not normal? Why aren’t the EMT’s putting people on stretchers, waiting for Flight for Life while they tell them to just hold on? Something very wrong was going on here and I had to find out.
To solve this mystery we have to look at all the factors involved with traffic safety. Road design is one of the big ones. Did I mention Kansas was voted best roads in the nation? Our roads are mostly straight and flat with a clear line of sight ahead of you. Car design is another big one. Vehicles today are so much safer than they were 20 years ago with all the safety features built into them these days, like airbags, traction control, steering assist, tire pressure monitors, etc.
So what is the common factor in traffic fatalities here in Kansas? To find that out, let’s go back to 2004. In that year, unbuckled people accounted for roughly 75% of our state’s fatalities. Hmmm, that’s a pretty big number!
Ok, back to the alive and well Ohio couple. As I was driving them into Colby to get them a hotel room, they thanked me for taking them there. We talked about the crash and how their seatbelts held them in place-- ah-ha, mystery solved! I then thanked them for wearing their seatbelts because it was a lot easier for me to drive them a few miles than having to contact family members and tell them some really bad news (worst part of my job).
I should get to the point of this blog. Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is coming up on October 10 and is there to remind us that even though we are having record lows in traffic fatalities, one is too many.
So do me, my partners, society and everyone who loves you a favor, put on your seatbelt. You don’t have to be Einstein to know you’re much safer with it on. Oh, and your kids learn from you and someday they will drive off alone for the first time, so what did you teach them?

Tod Hileman is a Technical Trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol in Hays.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Tips

By Becky Pepper
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 716 bicyclist and 4,378 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2008. That means that if these statistics are not reversed, nearly 2 bicyclists are killed every day and 1 pedestrian is killed every 120 minutes.
Walking and biking are becoming increasingly popular forms of transportation. It seems that I see more and more people out riding their bikes every day. Maybe you have even considered dusting off your bicycle or are thinking about walking more often. Whatever the case may be, whether you are a novice bike rider or an experienced one, reviewing the following safety information may keep you out of harm’s way.
Whenever possible, you should cross the street at designated crosswalks. This makes you more predictable and visible. Drivers are required to yield right-of-way to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks, however never step into a street until you are certain right-of-way will be given to you. You may be walking in front of a driver that does not see you or is not aware of the law.
It’s always safer to walk on a sidewalk, but if you have to walk in the street because there isn’t a sidewalk available walk against traffic. This way you can better see the traffic as it approaches you which will help you avoid any surprises.
You should wear a properly fitted bike helmet when they ride. Of the 716 bicycle fatalities in 2008, the majority were related to head injuries. However, proper use of bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and greatly increase your chance of survival.
When riding your bicycle in the street, you must obey the same rules of the road as a car. This includes obeying traffic signs and signals, following lane markings, riding in the same direction as traffic, and using hand signals when you are turning.
Finally, whether on foot or on bike, it is important to increase your visibility. During the day this could mean wearing bright colors or fluorescent clothing. At night, you should wear retro-reflective items and use lights. If you are riding your bike, you could purchase a red blinking taillight to help approaching motorists see you.
You can find more bicycle safety tips and information about bicycle statues in the Kansas Bicycle guide, which can be found at Remember, being mindful of your safety while you are out walking and biking can help prevent you from becoming a statistic.

Becky Pepper is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for KDOT. 

Slow down, save lives

 By Steve Rust
Today’s vehicles are safer than ever before. So, why are nearly 34,000 people dying on American roads each year? Major factors are driving over the posted speed limit or driving too fast for road or weather conditions. Speed is the number one improper driver behavior contributing to collisions and violations. The saddest part is that speeding is preventable.
According to the National Safety Council, your chance of death or serious injury in a crash double for every 10 mph over 50 mph your vehicle travels. Having a crash at 85 mph, you are 12 times more likely to be killed than a similar type of crash while driving 50 mph.
Think about how many miles you drive on the highway when commuting to and from work. Remember the posted speed limit on those roads and see how much time you save if you travel 10 miles one direction at various speeds.
If you travel at 75 mph for 10 miles and the speed limit is 65 mph, you only save one minute and 14 seconds. Is that worth doubling your risk of dying in the event you had a crash? If you drive 85 mph, you save two minutes and 11 seconds, but you are four times more likely to die in the event you had a car crash.
 Most people are good drivers, but good drivers must also be defensive drivers and think about all the bad drivers and what they might do. Bad drivers cause good drivers to crash all the time! It isn’t the speed limit law that you need to worry about; it’s the law of physics that kills you.
 Please obey the posted speed limits during ideal conditions, slow down when road and weather conditions are less than ideal and always wear your safety belt.

Steve Rust is the Safety Coordinator for the Kansas Turnpike Authority. 

The Ride That Saves Lives

For the past several years I have been passionately involved with child passenger safety. My name is Norraine Wingfield, and I work at the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office. For those of you who are history buffs and work in traffic safety, please enjoy this brief look into the past.
Imagine for a second what a severe injury from a car crash would do for your child. Damage to the brain could lead to many problems, such as memory impairment, educational or I.Q. dysfunction, or even the loss of the ability to read and write.
It’s a horrific thought.
It was this thinking, however, that brought about the single greatest development in child safety in the last century. The child safety seat was developed over 50 years ago as a means to combat the staggering damage children can receive in the event of a car crash.
The first instance of a child restraint in a vehicle was in 1898. This early device was little more than a bag with a drawstring that could attach to the car seat.
It wasn’t until the 1930s car designers came up with a working model of a child car seat. These child seats from the ‘30s did exactly what their predecessors did--they kept a child sitting in the back of the car. During this time, safety belts were becoming commonplace in vehicles, as were other safety devices meant to stem the tide of traffic fatalities.
Unfortunately, it would be another 30 years before anything serious would be done about it.
Peace, love, and car seats took place in the 1960s when Swedish auto designers finally began to seriously address the problem of child safety in cars. They developed the first rear-facing child safety seat designed to prevent an infant from being injured in an auto accident.
It took several years and extensive testing, but in the end they had developed what is probably the most important safety feature to ever be added to a vehicle.
When safety seats hit the market in the mid-1960s, they bombed. The only people who bought them were a minority of only the most safety-conscious parents. The problem was people just didn’t know enough about them, and it seemed like a useless expense.
This forced safety seat manufacturers to take a different route. In this case, education would be the off-ramp of success.
In the 1970s, members of the medical community, consumer groups, safety seat manufacturers, and insurance companies among others got together and showed the general public safety seats for children were a necessary device for keeping their children alive in the case of a collision.
They also managed to convince various levels of governments, and some states started passing laws requiring the use of safety seats for young children. Tennessee was the first state to do so, and between 1978 and 1985 every single state was to follow suit.
Seat designers are using space-age polymers and designs to make child safety seats safer than ever before. It looks as though child safety seats are strapping in...;and they’re ready for a long ride.
(Bill Schnarr,, 9-10-2008)

Norraine Wingfield is the Program Director for the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office.