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