Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day

by Ray LaHood
I’d like to thank the folks at KDOT, not just for inviting me to write another blog post, but for making such a strong commitment to road safety through this 20-day run-up to Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day.
Safety is our number one priority at DOT, and events like Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day are a great way to remind everyone of the simple steps they can take to make our roadways safer for everyone who uses them.
Fortunately, people are listening. In 2010, traffic fatalities dropped to the lowest levels since 1949, and that’s in spite of Americans driving 21 billion more miles than they did last year. In the region covering Kansas as well as Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska, fatalities dropped by 2.6% from 2009.
But, as anyone who has lost a loved one in a traffic crash can tell you, any number of fatalities other than zero is too high. If one of the 33,000 people killed on the road last year was one of your friends or family members, then you know all too well that we cannot rest on our laurels.
Other writers on this blog have talked about common-sense ways that you can keep yourself safe while on the road. Candice Breshears and Bill Self talked about the importance of wearing a seat belt. Rick Heinrich talked about not drinking and driving. We’ve tried to echo this with national awareness campaigns like “Click It or Ticket” and “Over the Limit, Under Arrest.”
I’d like to focus on the epidemic of distracted driving. Whether it’s visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) or cognitive (taking your mind off what you’re doing), distracted driving slows your reflexes and puts you at much greater risk for a crash.
In fact, almost 5,500 people were killed and 500,000 more were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2009. And those aren't just statistics--they're parents, children, neighbors, and friends.
Our ongoing series, “Faces of Distracted Driving,” shares some of their stories. The videos feature families from all across America who have been injured or lost loved ones because a driver was texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. These people are proof that distracted driving can have tragic consequences for entire communities.
But the speakers in these videos don’t just want to share their stories and be done with it. They’re committed to reducing the number of traffic fatalities to as low a number as we can get. Many people--like Amanda Umscheid of Manhattan, Kan.--have used these tragedies as springboards to action, encouraging young drivers to put their devices away, urging their communities to sign pledges, or testifying in state legislatures on behalf of distracted driving bans.
While we've made significant progress on road safety issues over the years, we still have plenty of work ahead of us. That's why we need the dedicated folks who are part of Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day to keep up this terrific effort to remind people to drive as safely as possible on October 10, and every day.

Ray LaHood is the United States Secretary of Transportation.

Reducing Fatalities One Person at a Time

by Phyllis Marotta
Okay, I admit it: I’m a safety nerd. You know, the grandma who makes sure the kiddos are safely buckled into the correct carseat. The person who gives you the “buckle up” gesture at the red light when she sees you aren’t wearing your seatbelt. The one who reminds you to have a SOBER designated driver for the night. The woman who promotes the graduated drivers license law for teens, which gives them lots of supervised experience behind the wheel. The gal who dons a helmet when she gets on the back of a motorcycle. The one who tells you to put down the phone when you aren’t paying attention to the green turn arrow. So, was I born this way, or am I a product of my environment?
I am definitely a product of my environment. At one time, I was the teen who rolled a car on a country road because I was not experienced enough to know that if you hit the brakes on gravel, you’d lose control. I was also the woman who was always nodding off at the wheel because I didn’t know I had mild narcolepsy. I’m the driver who admits to having a lead foot--but I’m working on correcting that habit because I know speed kills.
Wearing a helmet did not come naturally to me--I loved feeling my hair blow in the wind! Child safety seats? C’mon, I was the little girl sitting on the tailgate of the family station wagon in the 1950s; my brothers thought it was great fun to give me a little shove and then yell at Dad to slow down so I could run and hop back on. Riding inside the car, my mom was my seatbelt, throwing out her arm to protect me when she slammed on the brakes. As for modern technology--weren’t cell phones invented to keep me alert, especially on a long trip?
So when did my habits and attitudes start changing? Forty years ago, a close friend fell asleep at the wheel, hit a culvert, and was killed. Nearly twenty years ago, some friends were hit by a drunk driver the weekend before their baby was due, killing their beautiful baby girl. Twelve years ago, a woman from our small town fell asleep and drove under a semi, killing herself and her two sons. Ten years ago, a friend and I were the first ones to discover a rollover crash, where I found the driver facedown in a ditch, ejected from his pickup and killed, and the area strewn with empty beer cans. Even after experiencing those tragedies, I wasn’t the safety advocate that I am today.
For the past 7 years, I have worked in KDOT’s Traffic Safety Section. Within the first month on the job, my son lost one of his friends due to driving drunk and not wearing a seatbelt. Just a couple of weeks later, a friend of mine driving a grain truck failed to stop at the stop sign at a rural intersection less than a mile from his home, was hit by another truck, was not wearing his seatbelt, and was killed. I have read too many fatal crash reports, and have studied enough stats to make my head spin.
I have worked with law enforcement officers, and have watched them detect and arrest drunk drivers. I have mourned the loss of a close friend who was the victim of a drunk driver. I have seen a friend loaded into an ambulance because he pulled out on his motorcycle in front of a pickup. I have seen many close calls where drivers were focusing on phones (or other distractions) instead of driving. I have pleaded with friends and family members, and argued with them about whether it should be their “choice” or the law to wear their seatbelts/helmets.
On the flip side, I have seen our adult seatbelt rate go from 68% to 83%. I’ve seen many life-saving improvements in our laws. I’ve seen children leave a parking lot more safely than they arrived, because parents were taught how to install car seats. I’ve heard stories from teens about surviving crashes because they made the choice to buckle up after going through the S.A.F.E. (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) program. I’ve seen drivers, including myself, change behaviors due to dangers that have been brought to our attention.
Sometimes I get discouraged with the ones who don’t get the message, but I’m still determined to try to “Put the Brakes on Fatalities” by reaching one person at a time!

Phyllis Marotta is in KDOT’s Transportation Safety and Technology Bureau

Importance of Safety Messages Seen Firsthand

by Chris Herrick
I started my first career at NCR Corporation as a sales representative. My job was to sell retail applications to businesses that helped them control their inventory and provided them with an audit trail of business transactions. While working at NCR, I always felt like I was trying to sell someone something that I had very little personal experience with and never used myself. For the last 20 years I have worked for KDOT, and have listened to all of our safety campaigns over the years “Click it or Ticket,” “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest” etc.
Three years ago I really realized how important our campaigns are and how seat belts do save lives. Three years ago my in-laws came to visit us so they could attend a school band concert that my youngest son was playing in. My in-laws, who were in their 70s, lived in Wichita and traveled to Topeka for the concert. After the concert was over they decided to drive back to Wichita even though it was raining. We didn’t like the idea of them driving in the rain but they had commitments the next day that they couldn’t miss.
On their drive back to Wichita, it started raining hard. Just outside of Emporia my father-in-law started hydroplaning and hit the middle concrete barrier on the Turnpike. He tried to regain control of his car but he was unable to and their car careened out of control down a steep embankment. Their car ended up in a creek that was quickly filling up with water.
Luckily, a car behind them saw what had happened and stopped to help them. Both of my in-laws were able to walk up the embankment with help from the people who stopped to help. Both of my in-laws were wearing seat belts which minimized their injuries. Their car was mangled but somehow they were able to walk away from the crash. Without their seat belts, I don’t believe that they would have survived the crash. My mother-in-law sustained a crushed vertebra and my father-in-law suffered a head trauma that later caused a brain bleed.
Unfortunately for us, my father-in-law was on a blood thinner and later suffered a fatal brain bleed due to the head trauma and passed away. It was really difficult for me to lose a person I looked up to and considered one of my best friends. But I am convinced, if he wouldn’t have been wearing a seat belt, he probably wouldn’t have survived the immediate crash. My mother-in-law survived the crash and is doing fine, which is a blessing.
It took a personal experience like this to drive home the point of how important our safety promotions are and how important it is to wear your seat belt. Seat belts save lives, so PLEASE buckle up!

Chris Herrick is the KDOT Director of Planning and Development.

All the Things He was Supposed to Do

by Steve Swartz
I was in 8th grade, home on Christmas vacation and still in bed when I heard my mother answer the phone about 8 a.m. It was her brother calling from Denver to tell us that their oldest brother, Jack, had died a few hours earlier when the long-haul truck he was driving plowed into the back of another truck parked on the side of a foggy Pennsylvania highway. Then I heard my mother, needing more verification, call the trucking company to find out if her brother had really been killed.
There had been no mistake.
It’s more than 40 years since we got that call, but I believe that every Dec. 27th since I’ve thought about that morning. Uncle Jack was my roommate for about five months between the time he took a job in Kansas City and when his family moved out from California to join him. By the time he moved out of the house, we were pretty good friends.
When I think about that morning, it’s not so much about how I’ve always missed him, but more about all the things that never happened because he didn’t come home from that trip. He didn’t come close to reaching retirement when he could leave the road for the last time and enjoy living at home for more than just a few days at a time. He didn’t get to attend graduations, weddings or the births of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He didn’t get to give advice or be a joker to his kids or me or any of us.
He didn’t get to hold the hand of his wife, my oh-so-fun aunt with the goofy name of Snooky, when she became confused with Alzheimer’s disease. Nor did he get to comfort my cousins Kathy and John through their health crises.
I’m not sure I ever knew what caused the crash. Was the parked truck pulled all the way off the road? Did the fog make it hard to see? Was Jack tired? It doesn’t matter.
If my old roommate could talk to me today, he might tell me how he regrets not getting to do all the things he was supposed to do. And he might tell me to think about that every time I get into a car.

Steve Swartz is the Public Information Officer for KDOT

Be a Winner On and Off the Field

by Turner Gill
Impaired driving continues to be a problem not only in Kansas, but nationwide. In Kansas, more than 100 persons annually lose their lives due to impaired driving. All of us can do our part to reduce this unnecessary carnage on our roadways. Designate a sober driver before you begin your activity. Sober does not mean, pick the friend that has had the least amount to drink, it means someone who has not consumed alcohol that evening. Other transportation alternatives are public transportation or call a cab.
On average, an arrest for a DUI will cost the offender about $5,000. These costs include fines, court costs, attorney fees, increased insurance premiums, lost wages and fees associated with an ignition interlock. These costs don’t include the potential expenses associated with a crash. An impaired driver in a crash could be facing the additional costs of hospital bills, vehicle replacement costs and the potential loss of life to another person.
As the head coach of a football team, I am tasked with not only preparing my players for the game of football, but the game of life. One of those lessons is to never drive impaired and don’t let your friends drive impaired. It can affect not only your life, but that of someone else you care about.
I am pleased to be a part of the effort to reduce senseless fatalities on our public roadways and would encourage not only my players, but all drivers to “Put the Brakes on Fatalities.”

Turner Gill is the football head coach at the University of Kansas.

The Dreaded Phone Call No Parent Wants To Get

by Julie Breitenstein
It was early on December 4, 2009, around 2AM, when that phone call happened to us. I remember answering the phone and hearing a man’s voice ask for Mr. Larry Breitenstein. I handed the phone to my husband and heard the man on the phone ask Larry if he was the father of Austin Breitenstein. At that moment, I knew there was something that had happened to my son.
 I remember laying back the covers, getting out of bed, and heading to the closet to get dressed while listening to the phone call. Larry hung up the phone and my question to him was, "Where is he? He is either in jail or he is in the hospital! Where is he?" Larry very calmly told me we needed to go to St. Francis Hospital.
I didn't panic until we got to the hospital where we were met by a Chaplain. I remember thinking, “Austin is dead! He is not alive!” Finally, the Chaplain took us upstairs to SICU and put us in a private room. We waited for another 20 minutes. A doctor came in and told us that Austin had been in a severe car accident and she did not know if he would survive. She told us he was still having CT scans done. Her next words were bone-chilling. She said Austin had received a brain injury, a fracture to his C2 and C3 vertebrae, a bruised lung and lots of road rash. Only time would tell if he would survive.
We called our daughter and she got to the hospital around 6:30 AM. A post was made on Facebook by 7:30, and by noon, there were so many kids at the hospital you could hardly get up and down the halls. The nurse we had was fantastic, she let every kid in to see Austin. They went in four at a time in 3 to 4-minute intervals. It was very important to me that every kid see him! I felt that if I could help just one kid from making the same mistake, I had done my job.
What I didn't know was the cause of the accident. Our very good friend (who was our insurance agent) asked if he could go to Austin's truck and get anything salvageable. We weren't sure what would be left since he had rolled it several times. I remember asking Wes to find his cell phone. I was on a mission to know what had contributed to his accident, and the cell phone told me what I needed to know. Austin had been texting!
I know this because of the time the last text came in and the time 911 was called. Austin was reading a text when he veered off the highway, and his reflex was to over-correct. Unfortunately, Austin had not buckled his seatbelt, so when the over-correction happened, he rolled his truck, which also catapulted him through the front windshield. Austin landed on his head!
Because of the impact to the back of his head, his brain ricocheted to the front left lobe of his brain causing severe damage. Austin ended up with a bi-lateral craniectomy (bone flaps on each side of his brain being removed) so his brain could swell. Austin should not have survived! Austin eventually was put on a ventilator to help him breathe, and later received a tracheotomy in SICU. Over a period of 26 days, Austin's heart failed him 3-4 times.
We are now almost 22 months out from when his accident happened, and I can tell you as a mom I would not wish this nightmare on anyone. Austin has had to re-learn everything. I mean everything - swallowing, eating, drinking from a straw, toileting, and walking! Austin continues to learn something new each day. He has days that are good, and he has days that can be extremely overwhelming. He does his best to make each day a new day and works very hard on trying to get his life back together. Austin was 19 when his accident happened; he is now 21.

There is nothing so important to be said in a text to give your life for. The next time you text behind the wheel of a 2,000 lb. vehicle, know you just may kill someone or even yourself! You may end up with a traumatic brain injury like Austin, or a spinal cord injury that will put you in a wheel chair for the rest of your life! 

Watch out for motorcyclists!

by J.L. Riedel
“These daytime running lights are so wonderful; they make my vehicle so much more visible to other motorists.”
“I just love my new car, it is so air tight and quiet; kind of makes me feel like I’m the only one on the road.”
“OMG, this thing is loaded with technology; I think my new car could practically drive itself.”
“I mean really; all I’d have to do is sit down with my cup of coffee and cell phone and let the car take care of the rest.”
If you have talked to or been around someone who has purchased a new vehicle recently, the above comments may sound familiar. And speaking from the standpoint of someone who is issued a new company car every couple of years, I’d have to agree with them. Today’s cars and trucks are superior to vehicles from years past.
Daytime running lights, although not required on vehicles in the United States, are pretty standard and do make vehicles more visible. I also like how quiet new cars are. I have a 40-year-old Pontiac that I’ve restored; and even with new weather stripping, the wind noise at highway speeds will give you a headache. And when it comes to technology, I’m not sure where to start. I mean really, there are cars out there that will park themselves. (Come on, man: if I had to learn to parallel park, shouldn’t everyone?) Ok, parking aside, we have cars that are loaded with technological features that require less and less input from the driver.
So far, so good, right? Well, not if you are a motorcyclist. Approximately 20 years before daytime running lights started to show up on vehicles in the United States, motorcycles were required to be manufactured with a “steady burning headlight and tail light” in an effort to make them more visible to the LARGER traffic in which they shared the roads. Now that these lights are commonplace, motorcyclists seem to blend in with other traffic and don’t stand out like they used to.
I like quiet. With two little kids at home quiet is something that is sparse, but quiet isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to driving. How about honking horns, the siren from an emergency vehicle, squealing tires, screeching brakes, or the sound of a motorcycle’s exhaust?
As a motorist, we gather a lot of important information about our driving environment from the sounds we hear. If our car is airtight and quiet, the radio turned up, or if we are so shut off from the world outside of our car; what are we missing, could it be a motorcyclist?
Finally, let’s talk TECHNOLOGY. No matter how technologically advanced our vehicle’s become, when it comes to safety, the driver is the most important safety feature the vehicle has. It is truly up to the driver to take an active part in the safety of the trip; whether across town, or across country.
So as a motorist and motorcyclist, I am greatly concerned when I see driver’s putting all their faith in their high-tech modern vehicles and not in their own driving skills.
Look twice, save a life, motorcycles are everywhere.

J.L. Riedel is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol 

Close Call

by Robert Turner
The day started out as any other day in September 2004. As an Equipment Operator for the Kansas Department of Transportation in the Kansas City metro area, my duties were to operate equipment and be the lead worker on my crew.
At about 10:30 that night after a normal day at work, I was called by my supervisor to assist the Kansas Highway Patrol with traffic control for a serious injury accident. My duties were to close a ramp at the interchange of two major interstates. After setting my equipment up to close the ramp everything seemed to be going well.
After about an hour I noticed a vehicle not wanting to obey all the traffic control. After a few moments, I determined that the driver was not going to stop and they crashed through my cones. I dove out of the way and the vehicle struck my legs as I was in mid flight, catching the inside of my left leg with his front passenger side fender.
The vehicle continued up the ramp almost striking several patrol officers. After a short chase, they were able to catch the driver. He was very drunk, almost twice the legal limit.
I was not seriously hurt, just some bumps and bruises, but it was very scary. It just shows the level of safety we must all take when working on or near the roadway.
I have told this story many times, but if I can get one person to not drink and drive, it will be all worth it.

Robert Turner is the Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Olathe

Truck drivers - the road is their office

by Bill Graves
For most Americans, including Kansans, our roads and highways are the space between our homes and the stores where we shop, the places we work or the friends and family we love. However, for America's 3.2 million professional truck drivers, the road is their office and for much of the time, their home.
Truck drivers, as much as anyone, appreciate the need to be safe on the road - to follow at safe distances and travel at safe speeds etc. - but our industry is aware of the need to do more.
We at the American Trucking Associations have led the charge for all trucks to be electronically governed at 65 miles per hour, and for there to be a national speed limit of 65 for all vehicles. We've asked the government to set crashworthiness standards for large trucks and we've supported efforts to require that driver's hours-of-service be monitored electronically to combat fatigued driving.
Beyond that, we spend a lot of our time trying to educate the public about how to share the road with large trucks. We understand that drivers of smaller vehicles may be intimidated by the tractor trailer in the next lane, so through our Share the Road and America's Road Team programs we try to put people at ease, telling them to avoid a truck's blind spots and how to responsibly pass a rig that takes a lot longer to stop than the car that just zipped in front of it.
The good news is, these efforts appear to be working. Based on the most recent federal statistics, truck-involved crashes and fatalities have fallen to historic lows. This is good news, not just for the industry, but for all motorists. This isn't to say that more can't be done - responsible members of the industry are pushing federal government to do more to keep unsafe drivers and companies off our roads, and every day, fleets are doing all they can to avoid crashes and improve their safety record.
Through those efforts, and the efforts of law enforcement at the state and federal level, we can all look forward to a day when we've put the brakes on fatalities and our roads are a safer place for all of us.

Bill Graves is the President and CEO of the American Trucking Associations 

Safety Message for Everyone

Coaches from Wichita State University are big supporters of traffic safety efforts to reduce fatalities on our roadways. They expect the best from their players during every game as well as every time they get behind the wheel.
Following are some safety messages WSU coaches want everyone to keep in mind.
Nobody likes to celebrate a Shocker victory as much as my team and me, but celebrating a win should not include drinking and driving. We love seeing you at Charles Koch Arena and want to see you for years to come, so please don’t drink and drive.
Coach Greg Marshall, men’s head basketball coach at Wichita State University

I would never let a player step in the batter’s box without wearing his batting helmet. Not wearing your seatbelt when you drive or ride in a car is just as dangerous. Remember, in Kansas, it’s click it or ticket.
Coach Gene Stephenson, head baseball coach at Wichita State University

I expect my players to focus hard every time they hit the court and I expect them to focus just as hard when they are behind the wheel. Texting while driving is illegal and extremely dangerous, so keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Coach Chris Lamb, head volleyball coach at Wichita State University

My players go through hours and hours of practice before they see the court in a game. Your teen needs just as much practice behind the wheel with parental guidance before they are ready to hit the streets on their own. Make sure your kids have plenty of practice driving before they get behind the wheel.

Coach Jody Adams is the head women’s basketball coach at Wichita State University. 

Scanning For Animals Helps Avoid Collisions

by Mike Miller
When I was a boy, it wasn’t uncommon for the whole family to jump in the car and take a Sunday afternoon drive through the back roads of Kiowa County. While it was a way to relax and see the countryside for the rest of the family, my goal was to see wildlife. I was specifically looking for pheasants and scouting for the coming fall hunting season. As I got older and began hunting with high school friends, we always had a running competition to see who would be first to spot wildlife. Unfortunately, one of my friends had eyes like an eagle, and he usually won, but I kept trying.
I believe my habit of keeping an eye out for wildlife has helped me avoid countless vehicle collisions. I’ve had some close calls, but I’ve never hit a deer or other large critter while driving. I’m always scanning the roadsides ahead, pointing out any deer, turkeys, pheasants, or other wildlife I see to my wife, who humors me and pretends to be pleased with my sightings.
Watching for wildlife is a good habit to learn. While I’m sure my vision has probably deteriorated some, my ability to see wildlife has actually improved. I’ve learned that it wasn’t as much my friend’s 20/15 vision that helped him spot critters as it was his technique. He saw color, movement or reflection, and focusing in on that spot often revealed an animal. I’ve also learned to be extra-alert in certain areas such as stream crossings, tree lines, feed fields and water sources. And I know if I see deer in an area, I’ll likely see deer there again.
At night, I use my bright lights as much as possible. Headlamps on recent model vehicles provide an amazing amount of peripheral light along the road ahead. Deer eyes are highly reflective, especially if you have your brights on. If I see even the tiniest glint of a reflection, I let off the gas, slow down and scan the area more carefully.
I have no doubt that my wildlife watching habit has also helped me avoid accidents with other vehicles. You have to scan far ahead if you want to be first to spot a critter, and this habit gives me more time to react if I see a problem.
Try it next time you drive. Propose a friendly wildlife spotting competition with whoever is in the car with you. Not only will you be more alert, you’ll likely avoid an accident and keep wildlife alive. A dead critter on the shoulder is such a waste. And besides, watching for and keeping track of the wildlife you see will make any long drive go by more quickly.

Mike Miller is Chief of the Information Production Section for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

DUI 2011: A Matter of Public Safety

By Sen. Tim Owens
No matter how the public might perceive the issue of DUI, it can be summed up as a public safety issue.
Approximately five years ago, it became apparent that the DUI program in Kansas was broken and needed to be fixed. The journey to Senate Bill 6, which passed with 100% of the vote in both houses of the Kansas Legislature in May of this year, began with a report done by the Substance Abuse Policy Board (SAPB). The SAPB was formed after it became apparent that too many people were driving on the roadways in Kansas with multiple DUIs on their record but had had little or no corrective or rehabilitative action taken to cause them to alter their behavior.
When the public became aware of such incidents as the one in Wichita where a mother and her daughter were killed by a driver who had had over a half-dozen DUI convictions and was still driving, pressure mounted on the legislature to take action. The SAPB report was scathing in its condemnation of the manner in which DUIs in Kansas were handled. In response, I was appointed as vice-chair of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee to chair a subcommittee to explore legislative measures to address the concerns of the SAPB.
Valuable information was received from a variety of disciplines that dealt in some manner with the DUI offenders. From those committee hearings came a decision three years ago to form a Blue Ribbon DUI Commission which was to do an extensive investigation into the problems and recommend potential solutions to improve public safety by reducing the numbers of DUI offenders on Kansas roadways. That task was accomplished with the recommendations that resulted in the passage of Senate Bill 6 in the 2011 session.
The major accomplishments in Senate Bill 6 were those that addressed some of the core needs for rehabilitating the weak DUI system in Kansas and are major accomplishments in their own right toward strengthening public safety. Two primary achievements of the new law, which went into effect July 1, 2011, are:
● Thanks in no small part to the Secretary Deb Miller of the Kansas Department of Transportation, coming to the financial rescue of the issues surrounding the implementation of a Central Repository through a Memorandum of Understanding with the KBI, that repository will be implemented. It will be the central resource that allows prosecutors and courts to have a clearer idea of how many DUI’s an individual offender may have so that appropriate prosecution and sentencing may ensue. It is the hope that through this program and the requirements of Senate Bill 6, there will be a uniform application of the law and sentencing across the state in every jurisdiction and in every court, whether District or Municipal.
● The new law addresses the issue of public safety by requiring all DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their own vehicle and no offender will be allowed to drive any vehicle that does not have an interlock devise installed.
It is the sincere hope of the DUI Commission and the Legislature that the changes brought about by Senate Bill 6 as a result of the extensive work done by the DUI Commission will put the State of Kansas back on the road to safer highways and a reduction in the number of DUI’s.

Tim Owens is the Kansas Senator for the 8th District

Have a perfect record with buckling up

by Bill Self
Young people need encouragement and guidance to help them along the path to a successful future. Whether it’s in school, on the court or in a vehicle, there are basic rules that can help you accomplish your goals.
When you’re in a vehicle, buckling up is such a simple thing, but it can truly be the difference between life and death.
We’ve all gotten much better about buckling up in the last 30 years or so. I remember when I was growing up in Oklahoma, the importance of wearing them just wasn’t stressed yet. We didn’t think much about wearing seat belts in those days.
Unfortunately, wearing a seat belt is still not a habit for everyone. Some adults still do not buckle up, but what’s even more frustrating is that even more young people don’t wear seat belts. When you’re on the court, you always go for the best shot. And when you are in a vehicle, your best shot at surviving a crash is buckling up.
The good news is that over time, more people are changing their behaviors and making buckling up a habit. It’s important that we as adults set good examples and that we never stop providing guidance and setting boundaries on what’s acceptable.
There aren’t many things in life for which we can have a perfect record. We can’t make every shot, we can’t win every game, but we certainly can buckle up 100 percent of the time.

Bill Self is the men’s head basketball coach at the University of Kansas

Seat Belts Save Lives!

By Candice Breshears
The Kansas Highway Patrol has always been concerned with seatbelt usage and occupant protection in motor vehicles. In fact, it is one of the primary missions of the Patrol to keep motorists in Kansas safe by making sure that they are properly restrained. Troopers not only make sure that vehicle occupants are wearing their safety belts, but they always wear them as well.
Most of you have heard this message from a young age--from your parents, news media, your driver’s education instructor or law enforcement: “The first thing you should do when you get in a vehicle is buckle your safety belts.” It has been the law for over 20 years and now is a primary law, meaning you could be stopped simply for not wearing your safety belts.
Everyone tells you to buckle your seatbelt when you are driving down the road, but what about when you are stopped on the shoulder? What if your car breaks down, you have a flat tire, run out of gas, have been involved in a collision, and are on the shoulder, or you are simply stopped making a phone call? Should you still wear your seatbelt while you are parked? My answer to this question is yes!
Let me tell you a story about seat belts saving my life on January 10, 2011.
January 10, 2011, was a miserable day to be working the KC Metro area. It was snowing heavily most of the day, and the roadways were snow and slush-covered. I was parked on the northbound shoulder of I-35 near Olathe in Johnson County working a one-vehicle traffic crash. The driver involved in the crash and I were sitting in my patrol car while I completed the crash report and waited on a tow truck to arrive for his vehicle. I was wearing my seatbelt.
As a Trooper, we are trained to be aware of our surroundings. As we sat in my patrol car, I looked in my rear view mirror, and observed a van in the center lane attempting to pass a semi truck that was in the left lane (this is a six-lane highway, three-lanes each north and southbound). The semi truck was a fully-loaded car hauler. As I watched, the van lost control and began to slide towards the semi truck on the slick roads. The van struck the semi truck, which caused the semi truck to lose control and slide straight towards my patrol car. A crash was imminent!
I placed my car in drive, and tried to drive away from the impending collision. I was able to move my car about 5-6 feet before the impact. The semi truck, traveling a normal highway speed, struck the left rear of my patrol car. The trunk of my car was pushed into the rear seat area, with the sharp corner of the trunk lid only a few inches behind my head. My car struck the vehicle I had been working the original crash scene on, then spun several times. The semi truck overturned right behind where my vehicle stopped spinning in the ditch. My passenger and I received only minor injuries. I know for a fact--seat belts save lives!
There are lessons to be learned here:
1.) Wear your seat belts!
2.) Be aware of your surroundings!
3.) Be prepared to react!
4.) When driving in inclement weather, SLOW DOWN!
5.) Always move left and slow down when you approach a law enforcement officer on the side of the road! (They are doing a dangerous job, with the safety of all motorists being their main concern.)

Candice Breshears is a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper

Common Sense Choices

By Jim Massey
I have worked as a locomotive engineer for over 22 years and I have had several train vs. car, truck, tractor and even pedestrian collisions and many close calls.
To give you an idea of what it feels like from my perspective, imagine it's the middle of winter and the roads are covered in snow and ice. The car in front of you stops and as you push on your brakes, you realize you are on ice and sliding. Your heart jumps in your throat and you hold your breath for a few seconds till you come to a safe stop.
If I am in an emergency situation and have to "slam" on my brakes, that heart in your throat feeling and holding your breath lasts for several minutes as it takes the average freight train over a mile to stop from 55 mph.
Unfortunately this has happened numerous times, but one emergency situation stands out. It all began on a cool foggy Thanksgiving morning. My crew and I were heading home and were happy that we were going to be home for a holiday meal with our families.
About 30 miles into our 150-mile run, we start climbing a hill that had patchy fog, so we had some spots where we couldn’t see. As we round a curve, we see a man walking up the rights-of-way road next to the tracks waving his arms at us. As we called our dispatcher to report a trespasser on the railroad property, the fog cleared a little more and we could see a pickup truck sitting across the tracks. I placed the train into an emergency stop, but we knew we wouldn't get stopped in time.
At this time, there are a million things going through your head with the strongest being I hope I don't kill somebody. As we impacted the truck, a child's car seat flew out through the window and bounced off the nose of the train. None of us could tell if it was empty or not. Everything seemed to be in super slow motion as we came to a stop a little over a mile later.
The truck was still stuck to the nose of the train and we rushed out to see if everyone was ok. To our relief nobody was in the truck. Our focus then turned to finding the child's car seat, and to our relief again it was empty. By this time, the guy we had seen waving at us came running up saying it was his truck and nobody was in it but him. That was a huge relief, but still in our minds we have already set ourselves up for the fact that we had been involved in a fatal collision, and on Thanksgiving Day. On top of that was the thought of that family having an empty chair at the table that night.
Those aren't feelings that just go away. Still, almost 18 years later, there is never a Thanksgiving that goes by that I don't think of that day. So please, please, please remember to stop, look and listen at all highway rail grade crossing intersections. I would love to meet you, but not by accident.

Jim Massey is a locomotive engineer with Union Pacific Railroad. For more information about railroad safety, go to http://www.ksoli.org/

A Happy Ending

By Daina Hodges
Tears welled in my eyes and goose bumps crept across my skin when I heard his voice crack as the emotions began rising in his throat. The certified child passenger safety technician was sharing a story with me about a rollover crash which involved a mother and her young child.
The vehicle they were in ultimately came to rest on its top. Those first on the scene didn’t take time to consider the fates of those in the vehicle before they raced to provide help. The mother was clearly shaken and in pain but mostly worried about her child she could hear crying unsoothed by her efforts to provide comforting words. The child was found hanging upside down from his car seat.
Emergency responders removed the mother and child from the vehicle to find that aside from minor injuries (bumps, bruises, scrapes and scratches) they were both okay. The mother’s fears from the wreck and the thoughts of consequences that could have been were soon replaced by thankfulness.
Just a week prior to her crash she had made the time commitment to attend a child passenger safety check lane to learn how to correctly use her child’s car seat. She’d always been adamant about buckling the car seat into the vehicle but something about the way it moved when she put her child in and leaned when she turned a corner bothered her.
The certified technician at the check lane showed her how to lock the seatbelt to hold the car seat in tight and also discussed the fit of the harness on the child and how it needed to be adjusted. The mother contacted that technician to express her sincere gratitude.
The technician was clearly moved as he shared the story with me and the realization he may have saved a life and I, in turn, was also met with emotion and pleased to call him a hero.

Daina Hodges is the Outreach Coordinator for Safe Kids Kansas.

It Does Matter

By Deputy Rick Heinrich
Enforcing drunk driving? Enforcing underage drinking? Does it matter...? It does matter...
One cloudy fall afternoon, "Casey" had a few drinks. Casey was in Salina, but lived in Manhattan. Casey decided to drive home to Manhattan late that afternoon. Shortly after leaving Salina, he was stopped by a deputy for a seemingly minor and ordinary traffic stop. The deputy discovered that Casey was DUI and arrested him.
While Casey was being taken to jail, he complained to the deputy that he wasn't feeling too well. In a matter of 30 seconds, Casey had passed out, urinated all over himself, and remained unconscious. When Casey woke up, he was in the hospital and was in total confusion and complete disorientation. After Casey learned what happened, he realized that he would have wrecked if he would have still been driving, and who knows what might have happened if he would have passed out while driving.
Does it matter? It now does matter to Casey; he's still alive, uninjured and well.
On another summer afternoon, a high ranking local military official was headed home, ready to start his weekend off from work. As "Alex" was riding his motorcycle home, a car ran a stop sign right in front of him and there was no way to avoid the accident. After Alex's motorcycle crashed into the car that crossed his path, the driver of the car sped off, leaving Alex lying on the road, seriously injured. There were several witnesses to the crash, and ...it mattered to them... they quickly called 911 and reported the accident and the car that sped off. As emergency crews were arriving to the crash scene and treating Alex, the driver of the car was found, still fleeing the scene. After the driver of the car was stopped, he was found to be DUI.
Does it matter? It mattered to several witnesses who helped in this accident. It also mattered to Alex, and he fully recovered from his injuries, knowing and appreciating that justice had been served to the drunk that caused him to crash.
In another event, "Chris" was a bright athletic high school student, and early in the school year, he was trying to fit in with a certain "prestigious" group at school. To fit in, Chris went to a pasture party where the "in" crowd was drinking beer late one weekend night. Chris shouldn't have been drinking...he was well underage. Chris' driver also shouldn't have been drinking, he was also underage...and he planned on driving. Not very far from where the pasture party had been at, Chris' driver crashed. In a dark country ditch, Chris died that night in the passenger seat of his friend's vehicle.
Does it matter? It mattered to his family...words can't even describe it. It apparently also mattered to the hundreds of kids who participated in his funeral and memorials.
Does it matter? Yes, it does matter. Please let it matter to you before it has to matter to someone else...

Deputy Rick Heinrich is with the Saline County’s Sheriff’s Office 

Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Vision Zero--Every One Matters

By Steven Buckley
Between 2005 and 2009, Kansas averaged 417 fatalities. That’s 2,083 dead people.
Who’s to blame? The road? The vehicle? The driver? The environment? Sometimes. It’s all very complicated and sometimes quite contentious. What’s not contentious, however, is that everybody wants to get from home to somewhere to back home safely.
To this end, highway departments have worked to make the traveled-way as safe and forgiving as possible, vehicle manufacturers have worked to make vehicles safer, the EMS (emergency medical services) community has worked to reduce response times, and cultural forces have made seat belts cool and drunk driving not. Fatality rates continue to fall almost every year. We've come a long way. But as of August 18, in 2011, 202 people in Kansas left home for the last time.
So how do we turn 417 a year to 400 to 365 to 208 to zero? How do we balance finite resources and successfully target our investments in traffic and highway safety? It starts with a plan.
In Kansas, that plan is our Strategic Highway Safety Plan, or SHSP. An SHSP is a coordinated and informed approach to reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. There are three keys to this statement: 1) It’s coordinated--multi-agency and multi-disciplinary 2) it applies to all public roads--state, city, county, township, and 3) this plan is not about reducing fender benders--it’s about reducing fatal and serious injury crashes. An SHSP is based on the 4Es of traffic safety: engineering, education, enforcement, and EMS. And finally, an SHSP is data-driven. Investments in safety should be based on real data meeting real needs.
In Kansas, we have created our SHSP to be a living document. The reality of change demands flexibility, and we want to be ready with strategies and resources. The SHSP is led by a multi-agency Executive Safety Council whose purpose is to champion transportation safety on all public roads in Kansas by developing and maintaining a SHSP that drives safety-related programs. Reporting to the ESC are Emphasis Area Teams whose purpose is to develop action plans for implementation of the SHSP. Support Teams for data, education, and local roads have also been created to assist the emphasis area teams.
Want more information? Or better yet, want to get involved? Visit our website at http://www.ksdot.org/burTrafficSaf/reports/kshs.asp.

Steven Buckley is KDOT’s State Highway Safety Engineer

A Horrible Day

By Kevin Palic
Sept. 11, 2007, started off as any normal day. My plan was to attend a meeting at Headquarters in the morning and go visit a project on U.S. 59 after the meeting. During the meeting I was notified that KDOT employee Ty Korte had been hit. I immediately called the other KDOT employee at the site and asked what was going on. He told me to get out here, it was bad, and that he didn’t know if Ty was going to make it.
The next 30 minutes were a blur, I just remember trying to get to the jobsite as quickly as I could. Maintenance crews had the road closed due to the accident, I told them who I was and proceeded to the site. I saw a group of contractor’s employees beside the road. They were all visibly shaken.
There were also several Highway Patrol vehicles at the site. I could also see a medical helicopter out in the field beside the road. I thought to myself, this is not good, but hopefully any medical attention needed will be available.
As I came around the front of the equipment, the magnitude of the accident hit me like a brick. Instead of seeing emergency personnel, there were two white blankets with bodies underneath of them. One of the bodies was on the shoulder and the other was in the middle of the road. There is not a more horrible feeling than wondering which one of these blankets is over Ty, and then being able to recognize him by his boot sticking out. It was difficult to deal with.
The other blanket covered a Dustrol employee Roland Griffin. Once your mind gets cleared of what it is seeing, I went to find the other employee that was at the site to comfort him and find out what happened. He was on the other side of the accident, and unfortunately, we had to walk by the bodies to get back to the vehicle. This was very difficult to do, to walk a coworker by his friend that was just killed in an accident.
I stopped by the hotel to clean out his room. I gathered all of his belongings and drove back to the office. I can't tell much about the trip back I was in a daze trying to believe what happened. When I arrived back at the office, everyone was in shock. We gathered together and said a prayer and then went to visit his parents. This is another situation that I hope no one has to go through.
This carelessness does not just affect the employees at the construction site. It deeply affects families, friends and the community. In our office, we still remember Ty often. We speak of him in ways that make us all laugh, such as how he would get excited during card games, or the dances he would do. He was a good employee and friend, and has been deeply missed.
Please drive through the zone as if it was one of your loved ones or family in the zone. You don’t want to have to go out there and choose which blanket your friend is under.
If that doesn’t work, just imagine that you were the driver that caused this and had to explain why it happened.

Kevin Palic is the KDOT Area Construction Manager in Seneca.

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A Tragic Loss

By Marissa Roberts
On September 12, 2010, I lost my husband of 28 years. It was the worst day in my life. He was riding his bicycle that Sunday afternoon when he was struck from behind by a drunk driver. To lose him so unexpectedly was a shock and extremely painful. He was very active and healthy.
These past 12 months have been very difficult, but I am so thankful for my faith, family and wonderful friends who have been there and continue to be there for me in so many ways. Still, my desire is that no other family experiences the horrific pain that my family and I have experienced due to someone driving drunk.
Tim's death has had a huge impact on my life. I no longer have my husband to talk to, to make decisions, to spend my days and nights with, to hold me and to go out with. We loved doing things together: going on bike rides, playing tennis, traveling, spending time with family and friends, going to movies or out to dinner, watching basketball games, attending church and church related activities, and going out for ice cream. How he loved ice cream!
Tim often brought me flowers “just because” and surprised me with trips. He always provided for our family and never missed any of our daughters’ games, plays, school activities or any other special moments in their lives. He was a family man, and after God, we were his first priorities. I miss his corny jokes, his touch, his voice, his advice, his financial wisdom, his great smile and laugh, and yes, even his overcooked pancakes and hamburgers. What I wouldn't give to eat one of those right now!
I miss not waking up next to Tim in the mornings and I dread going to bed alone night after night. Now he will not be there for the weddings of three of our daughters. He won't get to watch his grandchildren grow up--our fifth grandchild, Taygen Timothy, was born on December 26, but Tim didn’t get to hold him. We won't get to spend our retirement years together--we often talked about our future plans, hopes and dreams. We won't get to grow old together, and he won't get to do so many things he wanted to do.

Those who choose to drink and drive need to be held accountable. There must be severe consequences; otherwise, many more lives will be lost as a result of drunk drivers. It shouldn't take four or more DUI's for this to occur. Please, please, please NEVER drive drunk! 

Personal Observations

My name is John Crawford and I am the Supervisor at the KDOT Goodland Subarea office.
Our maintenance work zones do not get as much publicity as a planned construction project. Our work zones are temporary and can be set up anywhere from two to eight hours. The maintenance work is usually to take care of a problem that is remedied with materials and equipment that can make the ride a little better or to extend the life cycle of the roadway.
Being temporary and subject to the availability of materials or equipment or weather, our work zones can be a surprise for the traveling public. The road doesn’t really matter. Whether it’s a secondary two-lane highway or a multi-lane interstate highway, the temporary maintenance work zones may require travelers to move or react to actions they witness once in the work zone.
Oftentimes once the traveling public recognizes a work zone, the attitude comes out. People make negative comments, say that we are wasting the taxpayers’ dollars and are just out there to make them late. Obviously that’s not the case - we are doing our jobs--to maintain and improve our highway system in Kansas. As a Subarea Supervisor, it is my job to make sure that all my crew members return home at the end of the day in the same or possibly better condition than they arrived to work in.
And that means being alert to the potential dangers posed by passing traffic. For example, on two separate occasions, while in work zones that were clearly marked with advance warning signs, arrow boards, truck mounted attenuator and delineated with cones for the taper and transition to the other lane, I witnessed a semi-tractor trailer rig and a pickup truck and trailer run into and over the cones used to delineate the work zone. This caused the cones to fly up and into the work zone very near where employees were working.
These cones and stabilization weights are roughly 10 pounds each. They could do serious damage to equipment and workers if they happen to be struck by these flying cones. I am not sure if it is the intent of the driver to try to hit us or just knock over our cones. Although I have not had an employee hit with these flying cones, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
This is not funny and it is a dangerous action in a very safety-sensitive situation. Although we do plan room for protection, these cones when struck at 65 to 70 miles per hour can fly far and fast. And if these devices are knocked over, it could cause an accident from the confusion caused by missing cones.
So please be patient, follow the directions of the work zone signs and please try not to hit or move the cones. I want to return to my family safe and sound just as much as you want to return to yours.

John Crawford is the Supervisor at the KDOT Goodland Subarea office.

Work zone safety tips

By Mark Engholm
As Kansans, we enjoy one of the best road systems in the United States. However, in order to maintain our excellent road system we must deal with the frustration of highway work zones. But for road workers, a work zone isn’t an annoyance--it’s dangerous. Construction workers regularly deal with traffic whizzing by a few feet from their “office,” and they rely on orange cones and speed limit signs to protect them. While drivers deal with detours and slower traffic, road workers are risking their lives on our highways.
Some key safety tips to remember in highway construction and maintenance zones:
Follow the signs. Following the directions posted on orange construction signs will keep workers--and you--safe. Even when work isn’t in progress, Kansas law requires that you obey all posted signs.
Don’t assume they see you! When repaving or repairing roads, a worker’s environment is dusty, loud, and very close to passing traffic. These unprotected workers are focused on their jobs, so it’s up to you to focus on safety: Never assume workers will step out of the way of your car.
Follow the lines. Work zones often have temporary lines on the road redirecting the flow of traffic. Look out for shifting or merging lanes, particularly if you drive this road often--you may be tempted to “autopilot” your way through.
Obey the work zone speed limit . Depending on sight distances and the type of work being done, the construction speed limit could be much lower than the normal highway limit. Don’t risk it—slow down!
No distractions! While driving through a work zone, you should limit distractions. Eating, talking on the phone, listening to music and drinking coffee can take valuable seconds off your response time.
The Kansas Highway Patrol partners with the Kansas Department of Transportation to provide Troopers to patrol highway work zones statewide. Our Troopers work diligently to enforce traffic laws in work zones and provide a safe environment for highway workers and drivers traveling on our highways.

Mark Engholm is a Technical Trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol 

On work zone safety

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. She wrote this blog on Sept. 23, 2009, as part of the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series on traffic safety. With Shirley’s permission, we are re-running this blog today as it is a powerful reminder on the need for work zone safety. 

Thank you for not being the next statistic!

Ever wonder who “ 'Em” is in “Give 'Em A Brake”? They are members of the community, and may be sitting or standing right next to you. The person out there working in traffic could be someone you know.
Slow down in the “cone zone.” That is someone's office--and someone else is expecting them home safe.
The life you save really might be your own, as more than 85 percent of work zone accidents are the general motoring public.
Although these following rules sound overly-simple and might elicit a “Duh!” response from the average driver, I bet my bottom dollar if every motorist followed them to the letter, we wouldn't have to have a Work Zone Awareness Week.
Be alert. Minimize and eliminate distractions. Pay close attention. Expect the unexpected. Be very cautious. Don't change speed dramatically. Don't tailgate or lane change. Watch out for lane diversions and detours. Keep your cool and be patient. Leave room and leave yourself an out. And, by all means, manage your stress, and obey road crew flaggers.
The highway construction industry urges both workers and motorists to follow these basic steps, giving their full attention to the roadway, and recognize the orange signs along your drive that indicate work zones, to help save lives and prevent injuries in this critical area.
The most dangerous part of any roadway--for motorists and construction workers--is a construction work zone. Each day, hundreds of Kansas Department of Transportation employees, and contractors' project workers, perform their jobs in work zones all across Kansas. These workers put themselves in harm's way to improve travel for the rest of us. While we place signs and cones in the road, and wear vests so our workers are easy to see, these tools are no match for a 3,000-pound car.
While we can't bring back the lives lost in highway work zones, we can honor those people by doing our part to make sure it doesn't happen again.
If following simple rules isn't reason enough to driving safely, consider that fines are double in a work zone, and workers do not have to be present for you to receive a speeding ticket. Fines can range up to $1,200, and your auto insurance rates will rise accordingly.
Thank you again for not being the next statistic. Enjoy our good roads and have a great time once you get to where you are going.

Dan Ramlow is the executive vice president of the Kansas Contractors Association 

Sharing in the responsibility--Safety is priority #1

My name is Johnnie Lira and I am the KDOT Area Superintendent in Ulysses.
One of the most common incidents in a work zone in southwest Kansas is the rear-end collision. The most common replies from motorists involved in these incidents is, “I didn’t see the vehicle until it was too late,” or, “ I didn’t see any signs, what signs?” I would guess this is simply inattentiveness behind the wheel.
I personally remember a close call or two as a flagman. One in particular--it was a clear, bright sunny day and I was flagging a bridge due to some concrete repairs. A vehicle entered and proceeded through the work zone as it passed the second sign (“One Lane Ahead”).
I emphatically began to wave the flagman paddle, and there was still no sign of deceleration. As I made my move to the ditch, I heard the stretching sounds of braking hit the pavement. The passenger side of the bumper clipped the end of the flagman paddle as it came to rest beyond where I was standing.
I recall the vehicle backed up and asked if I was OK and the driver stated, “I didn’t see you.” I replied (as nicely as I could), “You didn’t see me?” and I advised him that I started waving the flagman paddle (some 10 feet in the air) when he was a quarter-mile away.
I then asked if he saw the traffic control signs and asked if he was able to see the bright orange vest that I was wearing. His reply was simply a smirk. Unfortunately this example of inattentiveness behind the wheel is not all that uncommon.
The success and responsibility of a safe work zone is two-fold. KDOT employees must properly set up all required traffic control needed throughout the work zone and be alert at all times while working. But the public needs to do their part when in work zones and follow that traffic control as well as pay attention, watch for workers, allow ample space between vehicles and expect delays.
There has been much progress over the years to make all Kansas work zones safer, but this can only be accomplished when we all share in the responsibility and make work zone safety priority number one.

Johnnie Lira is the KDOT Area Superintendent in Ulysses.

Go Orange for Work Zone Safety

By Deb Miller
Ask anyone who works on a highway crew about close calls and they’ll likely have a few stories to tell you.
In my years at KDOT I’ve heard plenty of those scary stories. And, sadly, I’ve also heard the stories that have tragic endings.
It’s painfully evident that many of the motorists who drive through work zones are oblivious to the risks their driving poses to those who are working just an arms-length away. And if those drivers aren’t thinking about the workers, they certainly aren’t thinking about all the people who depend on those workers to come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
To help raise awareness of the inherent risks highway workers face every day, KDOT has planned a number of activities as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 4-8. We will have a media event at KDOT’s new area office in Topeka where I will emcee and speakers will include Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Ernest Garcia, Dustrol Inc. Vice President Brian Hansen and Shirley McDonald, mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald who was killed in a 2005 work zone crash. Throughout the week, blogs from contractor organizations, the KHP and KDOT’s own John Crawford in Goodland and Johnnie Lira in Ulysses will be posted here, so please check back each day.
For April 6, we have come up with a very bright way for people to show support for road workers: go orange. Search the corners of your closet and the bottoms of your clothes drawers for something orange to wear. You will be in good company. And if you are asked why you are risking your standing as a fashionista by wearing orange, please share that work zone safety isn’t just for workers--it’s for motorists, too. More than 85 percent of the time, motorists are the ones who are injured in work zone crashes due to inattention, following too closely, driving too fast or not yielding the right of way.
In addition to the above activities, please check the KDOT website to see photos of Kansans decked out in orange. For the past month KDOT has been collecting photos of people wearing orange. The photos will also be posted on KDOT’s Flickr account, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kansastransportation. In addition, we’ve produced a “Go Orange” video you can view on the agency’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/kansastransportation.
While we intend to have some fun wearing orange and promoting Work Zone Awareness Week, this is serious stuff. We depend on highway workers--including law enforcement and all first responders--to keep our families safe and to keep our economy moving. These workers deserve our respect and our undivided attention every day of the year. So, please do what you can to promote work zone safety and go orange!

Deb Miller is the Kansas Secretary of Transportation.